WATCH: Drone nearly lands on skier at World Cup slalom
MADONNA DI CAMPIGLIO, Italy - Austrian skier Marcel Hirscher considers himself "lucky" after narrowly avoiding having a drone crash land on top of him at the World Cup slalom at Madonna di Campiglio, Italy on Tuesday, December 22.
Hirscher was hurtling down the mountain on his second run when the drone, which was being used to film television pictures of the course from above, came crashing down to the ground just inches away from the 26-year-old.
"That's my Christmas present! I'm not hurt and I was lucky," joked Hirscher.
Television footage shows the drone smashing to pieces as it hits the ground just behind Hirscher, with a propeller bouncing up into the air.
However, Hirscher took a more serious tone with journalists when adding: "It's unbelievable, it's incredible, shameful."
Hirscher revealed 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," said Hirscher.
The drone was being operated by an expert employed by the host broadcaster Infront Sports and Media.
Both they and the International Ski Federation (FIS) apologized for the incident and vowed to ensure no such repeat occurred.
"While FIS and its partners aim to use new technology to enhance the fan experience, an accident such as the drone crash cannot happen again," said an FIS statement.
"FIS and the host broadcaster will work together with all the involved parties to see what occurred during the crash and ensure that this will not happen again."
Prior to the event, organizers had been championing what they described as "unprecedented live TV images" from the first ever alpine skiing event to use a drone to film the race.
"The recipe of successful events is to be able to build over history, and experience, while always trying to pursue innovation, to be one step ahead of your time," boasted a press release on Saturday.
"Supported by its over-60-year history the 3Tre (the Madonna di Campiglio World Cup race) is the perfect place where something revolutionary may happen and amaze millions of TV viewers around the world."
It added: "A drone will fly over the slope to air live images during the event, an absolute premiere in Audi FIS Ski World Cup."
However, the crash has convinced some athletes 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."
While countries like Austria, Switzerland and France do not allow drones to be flown over crowds of people, that is not the case in Italy.
A France Televisions spokesman told AFP that while they do not film sporting events with drones, they do use them to show the spectacular landscape around the country during the three-week long Tour de France bicycle race.
It's not the first time a major sporting event has been disrupted by a wayward drone.
In October 2014, a European Championship qualifying match in Belgrade between Serbia and Albania was halted when violence broke out on and off the field after a drone flew over the pitch.
The drone was carrying a flag bearing a map of 'Greater Albania', which included Serbia, in a clear provocation between two Balkan nations with fragile ties, particularly since Kosovo, a former province of Serbia populated by mostly ethnic Albanians, declared independence in 2008 - a move not recognized by Belgrade.
At September's US Open tennis tournament, eventual women's champion Flavia Pennetta's second round match against Monica Niculescu was disrupted by a drone flying over the court and crashing in the stands.
Italian Pennetta admitted to being terrified by the incident at the time, believing it to be a bomb.
"I was a little bit scared, I have to say," Pennetta said.
"I mean, with all the things that happen now in the world, I'm imagining, 'OK, it's a bomb'.
"That was my first reaction. I think it's normal to think something like that."
A teacher from New York City was later arrested and faced a charge of reckless endangerment. – Rappler.com