The 2015 Formula Drift season starts in less than a month and millions of drift fans (including me) all over the world are getting excited. As a member of the media I have seen many outlets use all types of innovative and enterprising ways to capture the fast sideways action. It started with elaborate mounts for DSLR cameras being placed everywhere from on cars to fences near clipping points. The advent of the GoPro camera made such placement much easier and even more creative. However, what really took off (pun loading in 3, 2, 1…) was the use of camera drones.
If you are unfamiliar with what a camera drone is, think of it as a very powerful RC helicopter but with several props and is capable of hovering several hundred feet in the air. These drones typically come with gimbals that can be equipped with GoPro cameras or DLSR cameras and allow for gaining very high quality aerial footage. Such drones are being used for everything from Hollywood productions to capturing news. They have become quite popular due to their ease of use and the fact that relative to hiring a real helicopter for camera work, a drone is dirt cheap!
Because of these factors drones started to become common place at Formula Drift events for the last two seasons. At the Irwindale finale last year I remember seeing at least three drones hovering over the track and doing fly-bys of the grandstands as fans waved to them.
Although, it looks like starting this season that kind of thing will just be a memory. Formula Drift has recently sent out an email to all media reps detailing new guidelines and rules for the 2015 season and one of them is that all Formula Drift events are officially “No Drone Zones” as in drones will no longer be allowed. While this rule doesn’t affect my ability to cover Formula Drift events it may affect others and it confused me as to why Formula Drift would move to ban drones after allowing them for the last few seasons. Especially since (to my knowledge) I have never heard of any major accident or incident at a Formula Drift event involving a drone. I decided to do some digging and while there is no official statement from Formula Drift on why they created the new rule, a source close the organization provided some insight.
According to the source this move is mostly pre-emptive and that regardless of the past, drones are still a “liability” and can “cause distraction”. Also, just because there hasn’t been any major drone crashes yet does not mean it can’t happen. Can you imagine the fallout if a rookie drone pilot crashes a big drone with sharp spinning blades into the packed grandstands at Irwindale or Long Beach? Which is likely the other reason for the ban the source cited as allowing drones in an official capacity would significantly raise insurance costs for Formula Drift.
When looking at things from that point of view this new rule makes much more sense. Although that’s just my opinion? What do you think? Is it smart for Formula Drift to put the kibosh on drone cameras before something horrible happens? Or do you think they are over reacting? Let us know in the comments or tweet to us @MotorworldHype. If you want to see what a camera drone looks like in action, check out a quick video feature below we did on a pair of drone pilots filming round 1 at Long beach a few years back.