The Rangers took home their first World Series win on Nov 1, but we have a different top story from the five game series. This year we saw the first use of drones for live coverage of an MLB World Series. This isn’t the first time drones have been used in the MLB, but it certainly had the most eyes on it.
The games implemented three drones with the names “Gimbal Bee”, “Hummingbird”, and “Hummer Lite”. Out of these three must have been a mainstream cinema drone, probably a Mavic with broadcast capabilities, and at least one sub 250g equipped with a DJI Air Unit. The sub 250g category (also known as category 1 drones) allows drones to be flown overhead of crowds without requiring consent forms from the audience. This allows a lot of freedom for the pilots to capture perspectives unique from anything we have seen from the MLB thus far. A great example of this occurred during game 1 after Adolis Garcia’s walk off home run. An FPV shot of the crowd celebrating can be seen here: MLB | Adolis Garcia Hits Walk-Off Home Run In World Series (Game 1)
The piloting was done by Beverly Hills Aerials, a video production company out of California that claims themselves the leaders in live sports. They certainly have the portfolio to show for it, spending just a few minutes on their website proves that they were the people for the job. Even so, they faced a lot of restrictions from the MLB that limited the diversity in shots they were able to capture. For instance, they could only have one drone in the air at a time and the drones were flown only during dead-ball windows. These rules are understandable from a safety standpoint, but it doesn’t allow the pilot to capture the high-action moments that FPV is best recognized for. Also, the reality of flying a sub 250g drone is that you need to sacrifice video quality. At this point it’s impossible to meet the weight criteria and offer similar quality to a broadcast camera equipped with a $100,000 lens.
Our hope is that this leads to drones being a regularly used part of live sports. We have had our own experiences flying live for the NCAA Cheez-It bowl, Florida Classic, and Lionel Messi’s debut game at Inter Miami. We have long wondered why drones aren’t more of a norm in live sports broadcasts. It’s likely because of FAA regulations that limit the diversity in shots that drones can capture, and a concern for safety of the audience (which is kind of ironic when covering a sport that launches 100 mph baseballs into the stands). But you can’t deny the unique angles that drones are able to capture of the field. Our shots from the 2023 Messi debut have been repurposed across countless highlight reels, appearing on the Messi AppleTv documentary as well as the recently released Beckham Netflix documentary.
While this is exciting for the future of MLB broadcasts, I don’t believe that this is something we’ll be seeing on ordinary season games. There simply aren't enough trusted pilots for a majority of the games to be covered. Beverly Hills Aerials has only two MLB credits, the World Series and the Field of Dreams game. This suggests that drones could be a normal sight over future highly anticipated MLB games.