athletes · cycling · running

My own personal fitness drone?

I confess. I’m a gadget and data geek.  (See Data geekery and fitness.) I’m an early adopter and lover of all things techie. Right now I’m big fan of our new electric car and when it’s minus 34 with windchill with morning, I especially love the android app that lets me preheat it from my house.

There are few fitness toys I don’t like. But I’ve got to say, I’m a little leery of personal drones. I’ve been reading lots about their potential as fitness aids but I’m not convinced.

For sure they might make running safer for women. See The Drones of the Future Won’t Kill, They’ll Take Selfies.

The other concept the group settled on was Guardian Angel, a drone that’s billed as “the ultimate accessory for serious runners.” In addition to serving as a constant, hovering bodyguard on a solitary jog, the craft could also offer a number of novel fitness-related features.

It could zip ahead to set your pace, drawing on data from a heart rate monitor to figure out when you’re lagging and could be pushed to go a bit harder. It could also stand in as a proxy for your previous runs, kind of like the ghost drivers in Mario Kart—or even let you race against another drone-equipped friend remotely in real time.

drone photo with woman running

There’s also talk of coaching drones. Now, me, I love being yelled at while working out preferably by someone whose judgement about what I can do I know that I can trust. Susan’s guest post Or, Only When You are Watching  really resonated with me. But a coaching drone?

I read that some sports teams, the Marlins, for instance, are using drone with cameras for coaching purposes. For now, it’s just recording, not barking out orders but surely that can’t be far behind.

There’s also some enthusiasm for drones as companions on bike rides.

Bicycling Magazines declares that thanks to drones you might never have to ride alone again. See A Drone for Cyclists?.

The consulting firm Frog Design recently set out to create drone concepts for civilian use. Its “Cyclodrone” would allow cyclists to pedal by themselves while enjoying the visibility and security of group riding.

“This is sort of a way to ride in a pack when you don’t have a pack,” says product development director Cormac Eubanks, who designed the Cycledrone. “For solo cyclists who ride some of these windy roads with narrow visibility, I think it could definitely make riding safer.”

The design would incorporate two drones, one to fly in front of the bicycle and the second to fly in rear, to improve the visibility of the cyclist. The system would be equipped with a camera—“the original idea was to record accidents, but you could make a whole movie of your ride,” Eubanks says.


When it comes to technology, it’s not often I get to feel like an old grump, but this definitely brought out my inner old grouch. What about people? Isn’t it better to ride and to run with other people?

I worry that drone accompanied cyclists would miss out on lots of things, like how to ride in a group with other bikes, the need for hand signals, and reliable behavior when others are close to your rear wheel. (See Things you learn from working out with others.)

There’s also a bit of a worry about the ever increasing  gap between the rich and the poor. Rich runners and cyclists will have drones and others won’t.

What do you think? Will you be an early adopter of the personal fitness drones?


6 thoughts on “My own personal fitness drone?

  1. 1. Lots of people do not have access to suitable cycling or running companions.

    2. Utilizing a training drone does not in any way preclude an athlete from also partaking of the benefits of group training when they are available.

    3. Rich cyclists have expensive bikes. Others do not. All of the gadgetry you use now widens the gap between rich and poor. Why single out training drones as a specific offender in this regard?

    4. Once training drones reach mass market appeal their price will drop precipitously in a way the cost of human trainers never will. Consequently, this particular gadget may end up helping to bridge the gap between rich and poor moreso than widen it in the long run.

    5. For me personally I suspect that a computer program will never have the same power to motivate change in my performance as a human coach appearing at the top of a nasty hill late in a gruelling race course when I’m exhausted and thinking maybe I can afford to slack off just a little because there’s no one immediately behind me and yelling at me that what I in fact need to do is pass the five runners ahead of me on that hill. That being said, a training drone would certainly be a whole lot better than the nothing I have now. So yes, once the price reaches a level that’s affordable to me, I could definitely see myself acquiring and benefitting from such a device.

    1. Thanks for the thoughtful response. You’re certainly right that it would be useful for people who are geographically isolated. And I appreciate your point about pricey bikes. I’ve been thinking about the high price of fitness lately and might blog a bit about that.

  2. I’m kind of at the opposite end of the spectrum…I am a very low-tech runner (give me my iPod and I’m set), but I think these drones sound awesome. I currently live in a big city, so running around with a safety drone probably wouldn’t be super feasible, but it would make me feel better. I have several friends who are runners, but we rarely (if ever) run together, because we each like running to be our “me” time, without having to worry about anyone else. The pace-setting option on the drones would be incredible. I don’t see myself using the personal training option, however. I don’t like machines telling me what to do.

    I fully agree with Laura on the income gap. Several forms or aspects of fitness are expensive – I cannot afford to have a personal trainer or a running coach; does that mean others shouldn’t use those services? Everyone should exercise within his/her financial constraints; the cost of technology usually drops as the technology improves, while human instruction rarely does.

  3. Ditto Erin. I only have a Shuffle that was given to me and I don’t even get to use that anymore. Lately my training partners are ages 3 and 9 months and their talking is what I listen to as I attempt to push 98lbs of kids and stroller as I try to run. I finally had to explain to my oldest that Mama cannot talk while I run. Which makes me sad. As a degreed and certified fitness professional I both enjoy seeing new fitness technology and abhor it for its lack of personal interaction and feedback. It makes a lot of fitness enthusiasts think that they’re doing the right thing, but could be hurting them at the same time. So, I guess I’m a little split. I do agree with Laura’s first point.

  4. Since I first posted this I’ve been wondering about disability and personal fitness drones and how they might be useful….

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