Cyberhawk aims to convert Scotland's Six Nations chances

IT IS a branch of technology that is viewed as the preserve of the military and government agencies, used for the covert surveillance of a country's citizens.

• The Cyberhawk's view of Scotland's training at St Andrews

But now unmanned drones, long dismissed as an example of Big Brother's interfering hand, could serve the national good – by propelling the Scottish rugby team towards glory.

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As the national team prepares for the RBS Six Nations, it is complementing more traditional methods of training with the cutting edge device.

The Cyberhawks, radio- controlled helicopters featuring an on-board video camera, are being sent high above the training ground to record the action. It is hoped by analysing the positions, patterns and runs made by players, it can help the team improve.

John Beattie, the former Scotland internationalist, now a commentator and coach of West of Scotland, told The Scotsman the innovative helicopters would prove "invaluable," and could give Andy Robinson's men the edge ahead of France's visit to Murrayfield on 7 February.

The unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) in question are ordinarily used by Scottish Hydro, the power company and Scottish Rugby sponsor, to investigate safety issues on pylons and wind turbines.

This week, however, the Scotland side have been using the helicopters, nicknamed the Flying Scots after the nation's joint-record try scorer, Ian Smith.

They fly at up to 60 metres over the team's training camp at St Andrews. They can also hover next to individual players, giving a "player's view" of the action, with footage being pored over by Gavin Scott, the video analyst for Scotland, along with attack coach Gregor Townsend.

• Gregor Townsend with Gavin Scott

"Being able to analyse play and training top-down is invaluable," said Mr Beattie. "That's how coaches plan moves on paper, so having the opportunity to see it in action will be very useful.

"I don't think we'll ever see a limit to how technology can be used to give you edge and I think that, eventually, we'll be able to tell how and when players are expending energy, for example."

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Mr Scott agreed: "Viewing the game from above is of huge benefit because it gives you the breadth of the defensive line but also the space between the attack and defence. We can gather a lot of information from one piece of footage.

John Moreland, general secretary of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Association trade body, said he could appreciate why Scotland was using the helicopter.

He said: "At the moment, they analyse video footage relentlessly, but that is always taken from a side-on perspective, which is limited. But from high above, you can see where people are lining up and how they are running."

The UAV being used by the Scotland team is the brainchild of Cyberhawk Innovations, a Livingston-based firm.

Douglas Walker, a spokesman for the firm, said: "It's amazing to see our technology being used in this way. As a proud Scot, I'm delighted if we can assist the boys."