With millions of dollars on the line, coaches are racing for technological advantages on the field—and increasingly, above it. The latest addition to the $12 billion-dollar global sport technology market is a handful of companies that combine drone technology and artificial intelligence.
One of these disruptors is a Spanish startup called Fly-Fut, a Madrid-based company offering drone footage and analysis to professional teams and amateur leagues. Recently the company received backing from Sportboost, a startup accelerator launched by Iker Casillas, the former Real Madrid and Spanish national team goalkeeper.
“Our competitors rely on gathering images using tower cameras, but these are not as good as having full visibility from the top,” said Luis Llagostera, the CEO and the founder of Fly-Fut. “Another important aspect of using a drone is their ability to capture movement around the field; the drone gives you the flexibility to see every movement of every player from the point of view that one needs in order to analyze players and positions.”
According to Llagostera, top teams from the English Premier League, Ligue1, Serie A and LaLiga, have been using drones to film their practices. “Pep Guardiola has used drones in Manchester City since 2017, Jose Mourinho used drones in Roma. Manchester United, PSG and Monaco, they all use drones. In Spain, Atletico de Madrid uses our technology.” His company also worked with Valladolid F.C. and Leganes F.C. and is currently in negotiations with several EPL teams. “I am a fan of drone technology, but I am not the only one,” he said.
In the U.S., the NFL was the first major American sports league that permitted drones to film practices. “I think the overarching thing about both the NFL and then also college football is that teams have experimented with a lot of different technologies over the years to try to get particular views of the game that just helped them coach,” said Steve Gera, CEO of Gains Group. “But drones, from a cost-efficiency standpoint and also from a deployability standpoint, can solve that.” Gera has seen drones used at USC and at some Texas high schools.
Aside from professional first division soccer teams, Fly-Fut is also working with 69% of the amateur soccer leagues in Spain. Its latest product, Fly-Fut Pro, combines practice and match footage of a specific team or a league to analyze players. The company is currently valued at $14 million (12.6 million euros). They aim to double this valuation in the next year.