The cruelest cut

Ken Long

Baseball managers have long kept tabs on their star players to make sure they stay ready and rested for the big series. In addition to getting them to stay out of bars and dark alleys late at night, they now also have to make sure they don’t injure themselves by fiddling with a drone.

That’s what happened to Cleveland Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer, who was scratched from his start in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series after he cut his hand on a homemade drone. Bauer, who studied mechanical engineering at UCLA, has a collection of drones he designed and built himself.

A couple of days before his scheduled start, Bauer was working on one of them when a prop spun unexpectedly at full throttle, slicing the pinky on his right hand.

The injury required a trip to the emergency room and ten stitches. Bauer started Game 3 of the series but had to leave in the first inning when the wound opened and he began to bleed profusely.

With more than a week to recuperate since then, Bauer is scheduled to start Game 2 of the World Series when the Indians face off against the Cubs.

Safety First
The safety of drone operation is a key concern of the Federal Aviation Administration. However, its regulatory efforts have thus far focused on ensuring the safety of other aircraft and bystanders, not the safety of the drone operator.

Understandably, the FAA rarely permits small consumer or commercial drones to be operated near airports or public gathering places such as ballparks. Back in March 2014, for example, the agency issued a cease-and-desist letter to the Washington Nationals for using a small drone to take publicity photos at their Grapefruit League stadium in Viera, Florida without authorization.

Bauer also ran afoul of these rules in February, when he was banned from flying drones over the Indians’ spring training facility, which is located next to Phoenix-Goodyear Airport, by MLB Security.

A Market Expected to Hit a Home Run

Bauer is one of a rapidly growing number of small drone enthusiasts. Both recreational and commercial demand for drones is projected to climb considerably over the next several years, and FAA rules regulating their use may either help or hurt overall market growth.

According to the Freedonia Group study, Drones (UAVs), the FAA has to walk a narrow path that keeps the public safe but also allows consumers to use drones for personal enjoyment and commercial operators to use drones to conduct business in new, more cost-effective ways.

Bauer developed an interest in unmanned aircraft after watching a video of drones racing through the woods, a clip that reminded him of the speeder bike chase scene in Return of the Jedi. Racing drones are expected to post strong market advances through 2020, according to the Freedonia study.

Sales of first-person view and racing drones will more than double between 2015 and 2020, representing the largest dollar gains of any non-military market outside of photography.

Always a Risk of Disaster

Bauer uses his drones both to take photos and to race around obstacles in parks, sometimes leading to disastrous crashes like those seen in the Star Wars film. He’s also inspired at least one of his teammates, outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall, to buy a drone.

Let’s hope they both keep their drones sitting on a shelf at home until the World Series is over.