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17/10/2016

Baseball And Drones

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In the UK you would not think that a professional drone pilot and baseball would meet... However, as a GB International Baseball umpire and as a professional drone pilot (naturally with a PFCO from the CAA), they have done and continue to do so.

In June of this year I was commissioned by Baseball Softball UK (BSUK) (www.baseballsoftballuk.com) to take some aerial photographs and possibly some video footage of the relatively new national facility for baseball and softball at Farnham Park near Slough. I chose to use the DJI Inspire because of its relative portability on a train and because of the quality images coming from the X5 camera.

Two things stood out to me on completion of my risk assessment. One was the fact that the facility is in Class X airspace (Heathrow – 10 miles from the airport), with a helicopter navigation route over the field. The other thing was a Confederation of European Baseball (CEB) tournament going on at the main field. The client, BSUK, requested that photographs be taken of the tournament and the complex.

Getting permission from Heathrow ATC was not such a straightforward affair. They started by demanding an NSF (non-standard flight form) but I told them it was not needed since my craft was under 7kg. They then started to pass me around various departments until in frustration, I rang up one of my ARPAS-UK (www.arpas.uk) colleagues who advised me of the right course of action. This worked.

Next, the CEB commissioner requested that there was to be no flying over his field during games – a logical request and one that could be easily complied with, especially since there was loads of space around the field. We also had to look out for uncontrolled people and cars that would be entering the flying area, though this proved to be not so much of an issue. One last thing for the risk assessment – a flying 150g baseball hit hard by a bat will down a drone....

In the photos you will see a field that does not have the baseball cutouts like the main field. This is a new international field that is due to be commissioned in spring 2017 and it was of interest to BSUK to see the weak spots in the new grass.

As a last little part of the job, I decided to do some Facebook live footage of the game between London Mets (GBR) v Bourgerhout Squirrels (BEL). Since I am an umpire, I was able to do commentary of the game for an inning whilst flying the drone just outside of the field. The camera had a medium to wide angle zoom [14-42mm (x2 crop factor)] which allowed me to zoom in on some of the action. What I had not expected was the large response from the European baseball community. They all positively wanted to view the video and to date there has been 5,300 views (57 shares), including from the CEB themselves.

The video is still available on Facebook here.

One of the main advantages for the game was that no cherry picker was needed to film the seven minutes of the half inning and the drone had the flexibility to move about the outside of the field. For British Baseball, it was a first – baseball from the air transmitted live.

www.thomashaywood.com

(JP)
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