Did A World Cup Team Use A Drone To Spy On A Rival?

Apparently not. But FIFA is said to be investigating a “bizarre” incident involving the French team’s private practice.

Did A World Cup Team Use A Drone To Spy On A Rival?
[Image: Flickr user kielinstitute]

Drones make it easy to score aerial footage of everything from abandoned ghost towns to drug-addled parties in the desert. And now, with the World Cup soccer (or footie, if you prefer) tournament in full swing in Brazil, some teams are a little skittish that the flying, camera-equipped quadcopters could be used for nefarious reasons–like to spy on private practices.


According to The Guardian, FIFA is said to be investigating a “bizarre” incident in which a drone was spotted during one of France’s training sessions prior to its match against Honduras on Sunday. Rumors quickly floated suggesting that it was a rival trying to gain a leg up on the competition.

If true, it’d certainly be a sexy story, but it doesn’t appear to be the case this time. Apparently, the quadcopter turned out not to belong to anyone associated with Team Honduras, but rather to a hobbyist fan who presumably wanted to watch the French team practice from afar. Shortly after the incident, according to a translated report from BMFV TV, the man was arrested for piloting the drone over Brazilian airspace.

While some players were amused by the stunt, the French team’s manager, Didier Deschamps, told the media that the prevalence of aerial drones is increasingly becoming a nuisance. “Apparently drones are used more and more,” he said. “It’s not up to me. FIFA handles this and has been carrying out an inquiry; we don’t want any intrusion into our privacy. It’s very hard to fight this these days.”

(Deschamps needn’t have been too concerned with France’s secrets getting out: His club crushed Honduras 3-0.)

That said, it’s unclear how advantageous using aerial footage of another soccer team’s scrimmage would even be. Battery life is still not very good. And furthermore, it would be very hard to glean insight from an opposing team’s playbook without getting noticed.

Now, there are drones being used in Brazil, but their purpose is slightly less salacious: In efforts to beef up security, the country’s air force is employing two $12 million drones to patrol the skies above soccer matches.

About the author

Chris is a staff writer at Fast Company, where he covers business and tech. He has also written for The Week, TIME, Men's Journal, The Atlantic, and more.