VIEW FROM ON HIGH - HOW DRONES HELP WORLD CUP TEAMS
TOKYO, 19 Sep - A strange buzzing has been heard overhead as Rugby World Cup squads fine-tune their preparations this week.
Drones are being used to plot line breaks or stifle opposition set-piece plays, as teams strive to gain small margins.
"From that height you can see a much bigger picture - field positioning, spacing between players, why line breaks happen," said Canada performance analyst Wilhelm Horn.
"Drone pictures are perfect for that and it's pretty simple to use. It's good for travel too - we don't need big tripods."
Scotland team manager Gavin Scott was part of the analysis team when they first started using drones.
"I think we could have been the first union to use them," Scott said. "It gives you the one thing you want, which you don’t get from a single camera, which is the space in between players, and the space in behind players.
"If you want a tactical view, the drone is the shot to have."
Fiji record every training session with a drone and two pitchside cameras. Video analysts cut clips tailored to individual squad members, often with coach voiceovers to guide the players when they download the files after training.
Samoa also use the airborne technology.
"It gives you another perspective," said Samoa video analyst Hari Junior Narayan. "You get a wider view, a bird's-eye view.
"Normally in a scrum, what you traditionally see on TV is from a side angle. Now you can hover right above and see exactly how the props go in, the direction they are going in. It's awesome for the coaches."
Italy employ two drones - each worth $1,729 - at their training sessions, controlled by analysts Simonluca Pistore and David Fonzi. One covers the forwards, while the other monitors the backs.
"Before, we had to film from the side of the pitch or in the stands," Pistore said. "Now we are able to cover the entire pitch and session from every angle. We've used (drones) for four years and the coaches are very happy with what we can do with them."
Tonga, New Zealand, Ireland, Argentina and Georgia (pictured) have also confirmed they are using drones to prepare for their World Cup campaigns.
There is nowhere for players to hide. "We can look at (training) live on the laptop and then radio the coaches to tell them if players are doing things well, or are out of position and doing things not so well," said Horn.