Regular members of this community and die-hard followers of UCLA football know by now about how Coach Jim Mora and his staff have been deploying drones to get a better read of our program. It was one of the fun topics during pre-season camp last year - started by tweets like this one:
Brett Hundley even had a little fun with the drone over UCLA's practice field - perhaps foreshadowing the "campus enforcer" role of current off-season. Other teams in the conference have also been trying out their "drones" as well - although the Duckies' "drone" surprisingly wasn't as high-tech as one may expect from a Nike powered conference.
While non-military drones outfitted with video cameras have provided stunning aerial footage to entertain fans and craft promotional videos, their main use at UCLA is for analytics that cannot be gathered from traditional uses of video equipment.
"Hand placement. Foot placement. Spacing," said head football coach Jim Mora. "When it hovers above the line of scrimmage, you can get a real clear perspective of spacing between your offensive linemen, or differences in depth of the rush lanes of your defensive linemen."
Mora said it's not a gimmick.
"It's cool, yeah, and it looks neat and it's fun and it generates a lot of excitement, but at the same time, there are very specific reasons why we use it and we get a lot out of it," Mora said.
The piece includes perspective of Ken Norris, "director of video operations" at UCLA, who is described as the "official drone pilot" in Mora's program. Norris offers his thoughts on precautions necessary to operate this machine in a responsible and a smart way.
It is great to see UCLA getting this kind of publicity at the national level showing how Mora is striving to develop a cutting edge in his program. Usually, we see this kind of stories associated with other forward-thinking programs. Now, let's hope all this effort turn into results with a monster season in 2014.