NBC brings in drones to add perspective to Bay Hill telecast

The sixth hole at Bay Hill is probably the only par 5 on the PGA Tour that a player could -- at least conceivably -- reach in one. It's a 342-yard carry from the tee box to the green.

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In 1998, John Daly tried to carry the massive lake around which the hole runs. He put six balls in the water en route to a tournament record 18 on the hole.

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However, it's hard to appreciate how long that carry is unless you have the perspective of a golf ball sailing over all that score-endangering water. That's what NBC Sports executive producer Tommy Roy provided to fans on Saturday during the Peacock's third-round telecast of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Throughout the telecast, Roy gave viewers a glimpse at a different view of Palmer's Orlando digs with the help of drones. No, they're not the drones the military uses. They're now the kind of drone to which the middle-aged dad down the street from you straps his GoPro. These are powerful pieces of aircraft that can go where blimps and helicopters -- golf broadcast mainstays -- can not.

Using drones is nothing new. Roy used them wonderfully during the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst, the last for NBC as the USGA transitions to a new partnership with Fox Sports. However, soon after Martin Kaymer had won his second major, the Federal Aviation Administration put a halt to commercial drone use, wanting to offer guidance. In February, the FAA approved eight companies to use drones anywhere in the country. NBC hooked up with one such company, Los Angeles-based Aerial Mob, to help them in shooting Bay Hill from a never-seen perspective.

"The drone can go under the limb of a tree. It can go three feet above the rocks on the (water-guarded) 18th," Roy said Saturday in a telephone interview. "It can be more versatile and mobile than a helicopter could ever get."


Were the FAA to relax its regulations, golf fans could come out winners. Drones, if kept out of the way of players and spectators, could provide real-time perspective simply impossible for a standard camera -- even one perched in a crane well above the course.

Roy said that drones could become a bigger part of golf telecasts, adding with an audible smile on his face, "I already have ideas for the future."

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.