For the first time ever, the US Open will film with drones

UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. -- A chief pilot and his crew are now at Chambers Bay testing three drones and working through a safety checklist in preparation for the first ever use of drones during a live broadcast of the US Open.

A month-long city ordinance bans the use of all other drones in University Place, home of Chambers Bay. University Place City Attorney Steve Victor says the ordinance was passed unanimously in March by city council members at the request of the United States Golf Association.

"They had an incident at Pinehurt, where unauthorized drones showed up," Victor said. "The USGA wanted to avoid that from happening again."

FOX Sports says the FAA granted this one-time exemption for US Open 2015 golf fans.

"This will be the first time we've had live use of a legal drone at a major sporting event, or honestly at any big sporting event, so this is really big for us," said FOX Sports Director of Golf Operations Brad Cheney.

"The goal is, it's going to give the viewer a giant change of perspective. They'll be able to see the relationship between the ground and the height level changes across that course," Cheney added.

With the drones virtual eye, Cheney said TV viewers will get a better perspective on a bunker's depth versus the fairway.

Drones at sporting events are not new, but using them a major tournament during a live broadcast is, Cheney said.

"This is about the viewers at home. We are very excited, this will enhance their experience," he said.

Take never-been-done-before, add the world's top players and 40,000 spectators on site each day of tournament play, and safety has to be the paramount issue.

"A lot of people to avoid, but from our standpoint we have worked well with the Sheriff and the FAA," said Cheney. "Doing it correctly and right takes a lot of effort and manpower."

The FAA will be on site monitoring every drone flight as well as city spotters and law enforcement officers. The drones will not be allowed to fly while trains are passing and will have to land immediately if any boaters violate the 1,000 feet safety perimeter on the bay.

The Coast Guard will be stationed in the water to keep boaters back.

Three eight-bladed octocopters owned and flown by Helivideo, based in Texas, will alternate, flying 15 minute intervals over the bay with a mandated 500 feet buffer from any player or spectator.

The drone's GH4 camera will focus on Holes 16 and 17 and will track golfers from tee to green.

Cheney says the drone's high powered lens can zoom in for close-ups of players and even track golf balls.

The play makers will create the best US Open moments, but in between, the beauty of the Northwest, a municipal golf course nestled on the shores of Puget Sound will be picture perfect.

"The views you not only see from the water of those two holes but to look up and see the mountain behind you and see the rest of course lay itself out is going to be pretty spectacular as well," said Cheney.

The drones will keep their distance, but what if an errant golf shot finds the drone?

"There is nothing in the rule book for those things, it's like an inanimate object," said a chuckling Cheney, "Thankfully we will not be flying anywhere near any of that happening."

The FOX team has been preparing for its US Open coverage for the past 9 months.
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