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When Kansas coach Dave Beaty hired Jeff Love as director of football technology this summer, Beaty asked him to bring a “new and cool” element to practices this season. To respond, Love looked up. The Jayhawks are using drones on their football practice field, equipped with video cameras to give the team a unique spin on developing players and gameplans from intricate angles.
In every practice, Love controls the drones, which record special teams, seven-on-seven, offense versus defense and other portions as necessary.
The university uses four white DJI Phantom 4s drones, which connect directly to Love’s iPad. This gives Love a live look through the drones’ lenses as they buzz above the field.
The footage covers multiple positions, but across the board Love believes drones make for a great teaching point.
“There’s no real angle in football where you’re right on top of them,” said Love. “So as a receivers coach I can see, ‘Where does the DB’s leverage start. Do I stem him correctly? Am I leaning in or out of the route on time?’ With the high sideline camera, you really can’t see, ‘Is he sticking his foot at the right spot? Has he attacked the angle with leverage yet?’ This gives them the ability to now see that, where the kid might not even know he’s doing it, ‘cause you never have that angle.”
At the moment, the FAA only allows filming in an empty stadium. So for now, fans will have to wait for the day when drones can hover above the nosebleeds.
Drones could arguably change the way we study, watch and experience football games. The futures of multiple sports are truly up in the air, and drones seem to provide some practical solutions. For now, the implementation of drones has been limited. Kansas’s use of the flying contraptions provides the “guinea pig” tester theory, exposing unique viewpoints for the university and insight for other organizations flirting with the idea.
According to Kansas, every position group on the field is benefiting, including the most important position on the field, the quarterback. “I feel like it’s been great for us. In the meeting room we have that view of being able to see everything from the top,” redshirt junior Montell Cozart told KUSports, “and being able to recognize different coverages and what the corners are giving away in the coverages.”