UNIVERSITY PLACE, WA, JUNE 29, 2015 – When the world’s best golfers converged on the Chambers Bay golf course in Washington state for the 115th U.S. Open, Integrated Microwave Technologies (IMT), a leader in advanced digital microwave systems serving the broadcast, sports, entertainment and law enforcement markets, saw its microLite HD Transmitter soaring high above the green. Mounted on a UAV, the transmitter helped Helivideo Productions provide unprecedented coverage of the championship tournament for FOX Sports.

Eric Austin, owner and operator of Helivideo Productions, a premier provider of FAA-approved cinematography services for television and film, turned to IMT’s microLite system after previous attempts to achieve UAV shots with other manufacturers’ equipment were unsuccessful. “Prior to using the microLite, we were unable to maintain a reliable signal for this type of application,” he says. “Using a drone for golf coverage is especially challenging, and the microLite system has worked great. It allowed us to fly at low altitudes and hover behind sand dunes and sand traps while maintaining a solid signal. The microLite is a game changer for UAV-based broadcasts.”

For the tournament coverage, Austin and his team of licensed pilots flew a Panasonic GH4 and Black Magic 4K camera on two different types of drones, one for recording on the camera and another for the live HD broadcast feeds. This marked the first use of live HD footage from a UAV or drone for a sports telecast. 

Austin and his production team positioned the UAVs over Puget Sound, focusing them on capturing coverage of holes 16, 17 and 18. Later in the week, team members stationed themselves throughout the course in the early morning to capture footage of some of the players from a distance. In order to comply with the FAA’s standards, the UAV had to remain at least 500-feet away from spectators, a significant challenge. Employing a high-quality COFDM transmitter was the only viable solution, as it supports long ranges and is not restricted by line-of-sight limitations.

“We are excited to work with Helivideo, as the microLite is an ideal application for UAV video operations,” says John Payne IV, CTO, Integrated Microwave Technologies. “The robust COFDM technology of the microLite makes it extremely reliable, which allowed the drone to capture video without line-of-sight requirements at various low altitudes. The ability to capture this aerial view gave viewers a unique perspective of this event.”

IMT’s microLite features superb H.264 HD encoding capabilities, and operates in the standard 2k DVB-T COFDM mode. The H.264 video encoder supports Part 10 of the H.264 standard, providing a 30-percent bit-rate reduction or video-quality improvement compared to encoders that only support the H.264 baseline profile.

Each model features user-friendly control panels, and is the perfect companion to IMT’s Direct View handheld monitor/receiver, which was also used throughout the tournament. Direct View is specially designed to be used without a sunshade in bright sunlight making it perfect for this application. Used together, the microLite and the Direct VU combine to form a complete transmitter and receiver link in the field. The ability to view footage captured above from a ground position is invaluable to any UAV broadcast application, as it guarantees production team members are getting the shots they require.