X Games

Aerial drone coverage debuts at X Games Aspen

When Vice President, ESPN & ABC Sports Remote Operations, Chris Calcinari learned in late September that the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) approved certain vendors to use drones commercially for movie and television productions, he immediately began to seek opportunities to use this new tool.

After a thorough vetting process, he selected a vendor to supply the drone service. The national and local approval process was rigorous.


“In conjunction with our chosen vendor [Vortex Aerial], we had to apply to the FAA and prove that we would fly in a ‘closed-set’ environment and that we would not impede air traffic,” Calcinari stated.

After months of detailed planning, Calcinari and his team had all of the approvals in place. The end result will be on display this week during Winter X Games Aspen when ESPN utilizes drones for the first time during live event coverage of the Snowboarder X and Snowmobile Hillcross events.

The custom-built drone is approximately 40 inches in diameter and weighs 25 pounds, and will be operated on the X Course Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

“Drones will provide our Production team with an untethered camera source that can fly in any position around an athlete at a high rate of speed,” Calcinari said.

“The goal for this particular event is to follow snowboarders and snowmobiles as they race on a course that includes bumps, turns and jumps. We will experiment following behind, overhead and in front of the competitors. We are all really excited to use this tool at the X Games, an event that has been host to numerous new technologies and approaches over the years.”

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