Drones: The Potential Game-Changer in Surf Contest Judging

The Innovative Proposal for the 2024 Olympics

The world of surf contest judging might be on the cusp of a revolution, thanks to the potential integration of drones.

The International Surfing Association's (ISA) recent stand against the construction of a judging tower for the 2024 Olympic Games in Teahupo'o, Tahiti, brought an unexpected proposal to light: remote judging using drones.

This groundbreaking idea, though not entirely new to the realm of surfing, presents a radical shift from traditional methods, reports The Inertia.

The Possibilities and Challenges

The ISA's suggestion involves using drones as one of several angles for judges to score waves.

This approach raises numerous questions about the feasibility and fairness of drone-assisted judging.

For instance, the consistency of the viewing angle from a drone, the number of drones required, operational costs, battery swapping frequency, and whether they'd be used for live judging or replays are all valid concerns.

To explore these issues, insights from surf judges and drone pilots in the industry were sought.

Gustavo Corrales, head judge of the Costa Rican Surfing Federation, sees drones as an excellent complement to judging, especially for events with many heats.

They could provide detailed information about specific aspects of surfing maneuvers. However, he notes the high costs associated with drone operations, which could limit their use to wealthier surfing federations.

Technological and Operational Insights

today, like the Mavic 3, offers longer battery life, making constant aerial coverage feasible.

Aaron Jessee, a drone operator, suggests that for effective judging, each surfer would need to be filmed at the same angle, requiring multiple drones in the air simultaneously.

However, this could lead to signal interference and other technical challenges.

Weather and Practical Concerns

Weather conditions pose another challenge. Rain or strong winds could affect drone operations, reducing battery life and stability. Jessee believes several test runs would be necessary to iron out these issues.

The Future of Surf Judging

While there's no immediate necessity for drone judging at the 2024 Olympics due to the construction of the traditional judging tower, the idea remains intriguing.

Drones could provide a fresh perspective and potentially enhance the accuracy and fairness of surf contest judging.

However, whether this innovative approach is a necessary evolution or an unnecessary complication remains a topic of debate within the surfing community.

The 2030s might witness a significant shift in how surf contests are judged, possibly driven by advanced drone technology.

Photo courtesy of WSL.

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Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of DroneXL.co, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and EVXL.co, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ dronexl.co or @hayekesteloo.

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