(Thanks to reader Kevin Byrne for the heads up!)
It was bound to happen. Always on the lookout for an edge, some athletic miscreants will find that edge utilizing drones to update spying to a level that would put Sal Yvars to shame.
Sal was a catcher on the 1951 New York Giants who, using binoculars, stole signals from catcher to pitcher from his station in the left-field bullpen at the Polo Grounds through a system that would’ve made spies cringe. He would push a button, once for fast ball and twice for curve, such signal ringing in the Giants dugout and then transmitted by coded verbiage to the batter.
Suspected then but never caught, many players have confessed over the years that’s exactly how the Giants caught the Dodgers and won the pennant.
Fast forward sixty-five years.
Today’s technology allows the use of drones flying over stadiums and opponents’ practice fields to document in real time what an opponent is planning for the next game. The University of Miami uses drones to video tape their practice sessions for coaching review later on.
Gone are the days where Bear Bryant climbed into the lift hoisting him above the practice field to better see his troops practicing.
We will soon be reading about alumni launching drones above the practice fields of upcoming opponents to record and transfer video to better prepare their Alma Mater for the next week’s game.
Remote controlled, these camera toting drones, now available for as little as $500, can reach 1,000 feet and fit into a backpack. With very few regulations on their use, some video web sites have them flying over tennis, college and NFL stadiums, amateurs seeing themselves as mini-Goodyear Blimps live-streaming the games in progress.
There is very little oversight for their use by federal or state agencies.
Don’t think for a moment that unscrupulous people aren’t trying to find ways to video tape an upcoming opponent at a soccer game in South America or a Little League game in Utah or in a high school football game in Florida in an attempt to get a competitive edge.
A drone was caught flying over the opening game at the University of Texas last year with 93,000 fans below, and at the Wisconsin-Illinois game last October, another 80,000 fans were also potential casualties from an errant drone swooshing over the student section.
Current FAA laws prevent drones from flying over stadiums of more than 30,000 fans, the minimum seating capacity for Div. 1-A programs. That leaves another 300 smaller colleges playing football, along with over 20,000 high schools, all ripe targets for unscrupulous users.
At the University of Louisville, three drones are in use to help monetize social media in promoting the football program.
Just another nightmare for the NCAA to figure out how to control safety and cheating.
The NFL, trying to get ahead of the issue, declared this year’s Super Bowl game a “NO DRONE ZONE” within 30 miles of the game.
Who woulda’ thunk it?