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UAVs go to the major leagues as the MLB starts testing drone use during baseball games: Digital Photography Review

A screenshot from the Field of Dreams field that was used as a testing ground for drone-use during MLB-sanctioned events.

Major League Baseball (MLB) is continuing to adopt the use of drones for more than just scenic aerial shots from a distance during games. While last year’s ‘Field of Dreams’ game showcased the first efforts to implement drones into baseball coverage, this past weekend the MLB took its next step by testing out using a DJI Inspire 2 for TV coverage of a college tournament.

For the test, the MLB used an Inspire 2, equipped with a Zenmuse X7 camera, to document the MLB4 collegiate baseball tournament in Scottsdale, Arizona, from an aerial perspective.

Supplied by a Las Vegas-based drone company called Jib Tek, the Inspire 2 was flown by a single pilot accompanied by a visual observer. Instead of the sweeping, atmospheric shots you typically see from a distance, the MLB plans to use drones to follow batters as they round bases, accompany pitchers on the journey from the dugout to the mound, relievers coming in from the bullpen and the type of stop-time scenarios you see in other professional televised sports.

The MLB drone shots were executed at a pair of college games between UC Berkeley and University of Houston, and Texas Christian University versus San Diego State on the Salt River Fields—the Spring Training base of both the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies. Unfortunately, aside from the above video, the footage was only visible via a live stream through and none of it appears to have been published elsewhere at this time. This is the first time a drone was in close proximity to the players and action.

If there’s a home run, that drone is leaving its perch and following the batter around the bases. It will be over the field during action.

‘Our plan is to do more than just get beauty shots,’ Chris Pfeiffer, the MLB Network’s Senior Coordinator of Live Events, tells Sports Video Group News. ‘That’ll be part of the plan, but the main reason we are out here is to use (the drone) to help in coverage of a baseball game. If there’s a home run, that drone is leaving its perch and following the batter around the bases. It will be over the field during action. We’ll be getting really cool shots while it’s out there […] I’m not sure you’ve seen anything like that in a baseball game. We are really excited for this.’

While the MLB has opened up innovative uses of drones on the Salt River Fields, there are issues plaguing the league at the moment, including a delay in spring training and a labor dispute resulting in a continual lockout of players.

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