Ski drone was grounded on purpose: Organisers

PARIS • A malfunctioning drone which crashed close to Austrian ski star Marcel Hirscher in a World Cup slalom race was deliberately brought to the ground to prevent it from spiralling out of control, the organisers said on Wednesday.

The terrifying incident happened on Tuesday at the Italian resort of Madonna di Campiglio when the drone, which was being used to film the action from above, came crashing down just behind 26-year-old Hirscher.

"The initial technical report indicates a malfunction. The most likely reason is a strong and unforeseen interference on the operating frequency, leading to limited operability," said Infront Sports & Media.

"Detecting this, the pilot followed the official security procedure, purposely flying the drone as close as possible to the ground before releasing it.

"The aim was to destroy the drone, in order to prevent it from losing control."


The aim was to destroy the drone, in order to prevent it from losing control.

INFRONT SPORTS & MEDIA, organisers of the World Cup slalom race, after one of their drones nearly hit ski star Marcel Hirscher

The company added that the device as well as its pilot was provided by a third party.

The broadcaster as well as the FIS (International Ski Federation) said that the use of drones for broadcast purposes at races will be suspended "until a fully-secured operation can be ensured".

Overall World Cup leader Hirscher finished second behind Norway's Henrik Kristoffersen and joked that he had received an early Christmas present.

"That's my Christmas present! I'm not hurt by the incident and I was lucky," he said.

However, Hirscher then took a more serious tone with journalists when adding: "It's unbelievable, it's incredible, shameful."

Hirscher revealed that he had no idea at the time what had happened, believing an official charged with flattening out the piste after a competitor's run had hit the ground.

"I just heard a noise, I thought a groomer had fallen over," he said.

The crash has convinced some competitors that drones have no place flying over a skiing race.

"That drone almost crushing @MarcelHirscher WHAT!!!" said American skier Steve Nyman on Twitter. "Drones=good idea. Flying over people=bad idea."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 25, 2015, with the headline 'Ski drone was grounded on purpose: Organisers'. Print Edition | Subscribe