Tour de France Eyes Drones for a New Perspective in Race Coverage

The Tour de France broadcast team explores using drones for dynamic race coverage, promising an immersive viewing experience this summer.

Tour de France Eyes Drones for a New Perspective in Race Coverage
Photo by Josh Sorenson / Unsplash

The Tour de France broadcast directors are considering deploying drones to capture the race from the skies. This innovative approach follows a successful trial at Paris-Nice, where drones zoomed alongside cyclists, offering unique angles and close-ups at speeds over 60km/h. The feedback? Overwhelmingly positive, with teams themselves requesting the footage.

Anthony Forestier of France Télévisions, the brains behind the Grand Tour's feed, shared that the Paris-Nice experiment has sparked serious discussions about introducing drones for the Tour de France coverage this July. While nothing is set in stone yet, the potential for using drones during the two time trials and a particularly scenic stage around Troyes with gravel roads is high on the agenda. The idea is to complement traditional helicopter shots with drone footage that puts viewers right in the heart of the action.

Drones aren't new to cycling; they've been buzzing around cyclo-cross and mountain bike events with the UCI's blessing. I see them at damn near every local race these days. However, bringing them to the roads of the Tour de France presents a unique set of challenges and opportunities. Drones offer a fresh perspective, one that's closer to the riders' experience. But there are hurdles to overcome, such as their limited battery life—topping out at about 20 minutes of airtime—and the lower broadcast quality compared to conventional methods. Not to mention, France's strict regulations on drone flights pose additional considerations for safe and legal operation.

Despite these obstacles, the push for drone usage highlights a commitment to enhancing the viewing experience, making the race "as beautiful as possible" for fans worldwide. As discussions with the UCI, ASO (the race organizers), and teams progress, the cycling community awaits what could be a game-changing update in sports broadcasting.

Will drones replace helicopters entirely? Unlikely, says Forestier, but they're poised to add an invaluable layer to the storytelling of one of cycling's most iconic races. As the Tour de France continues to innovate and adapt, fans can look forward to not just following the race but feeling like they're part of it, thanks to the bird's-eye views that drones promise to deliver.