Back in April of 2015, Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett held a press conference, during which he casually mentioned that the team had started to use drones during practice. As he later explained, "the drone angle is interesting because it gives you a chance from behind to see all 11 guys on offense and all 11 guys on defense, but from a lower angle. Often times, you have to kind of pull yourself way away to get the all-22 shot. This allows you to be a little closer, so you can coach better. You see hand placement, you see where they have their feet and where they have their eyes. I think that's important. You can look at the players and coach them better when you're that much closer to the action."
A very cool use of technology, but unfortunately one that is currently illegal without special permission from the Federal Aviation Administration. After the FAA brought the issue to the team, the Cowboys applied for a 333 exemption, which the FAA granted to the team last week. That means the Cowboys' organization is now one of more than 3,000 commercial entities in the US that can legally fly a drone.
Drones are popping up everywhere
Even with a 333 exemption there are lots of restrictions about how commercial operators can fly. The drone has to be controlled by a licensed pilot, flown only during the day, and not beyond the pilot's line of sight. Luckily a football stadium, which is already a wide open and highly controlled airspace, is the perfect environment for safe droning.
The National Football League, a larger entity that sits atop of the individual teams, has also been granted permission to fly drones. Don't be surprised to see the NFL try out some interesting new camera angles in the years to come, or perhaps even at the league's upcoming milestone, Superbowl 50.