Will UAVs become as indispensable for journalists as notepads and digital recorders?
- By Rebecca Maksel
- AirSpaceMag.com, November 16, 2012
Ben Kreimer, Drone Journalism Lab, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
(Page 2 of 6)
Waite: Nope. Straightforward no. Well, I shouldn’t say that. You can’t have professional drone journalism. When I say “professional,” I mean: If I happen to have a camera onboard [an RC aircraft] and take some pictures, I’m more than welcome to have those pictures, but the moment that I sell them to somebody, or take money for them, it becomes a commercial purpose. And the FAA does consider journalism to be a commercial purpose.
For the time being, there is no widespread way for drone journalism to go on. That’s not to say it’s not happening. Because we have things like the Internet and YouTube, people who fly remote control aircraft have put videos of things that they’ve done up on the Internet, and just said, “Here, world, have it.”
There was a man in Dallas, Texas, who was flying his remote controlled airplane and had a camera onboard it, and he was flying next door to a meat packing plant. His camera caught images of the plant dumping pig blood into a nearby creek, which then flowed into the Trinity River, which then became part of the city of Dallas’ drinking water supply.
When he saw what he had, he turned it over to environmental authorities, and he put the images out there for anybody to see. He may not have realized that he was doing drone journalism, but to me, that is in the highest and best traditions of investigative reporting. If a newsroom had gotten a tip that that was going on, the only way that they could get that was to fly something next door and get a picture of it—they would have done it. That’s totally within the purview of investigative journalism.
There are other examples that you mostly see overseas, of people using small, multi-rotor helicopters to cover protests—in Moscow late last year, and another one in Warsaw, Poland.
That one has been taken down from so many sites. You can still see it on DefenseTech.com, but everywhere else it has been pulled. I wondered what sort of repercussions there’d been.
Waite: It’s a good question. At least here in the U.S., what I have heard, is that generally, if you run afoul of these rules you get a phone call from the FAA, and they say, “knock it off” in so many words. And most people have done just that.
The Daily—the Murdoch News Corp.-owned iPad news organization—hired a company that had a multi-rotor helicopter, put a camera on it, and produced some really stunning videos from Tuscaloosa and from, I think Joplin. They put those on the Daily, and the FAA called them up and [told them to stop]. Because the Daily is subscription-based, and the addition of the videos could be used to induce people to subscribe, they thought it crossed the line into a commercial purpose.