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 3 of 6)
I’ve heard of realtors in Southern California, Los Angeles in particular, using UAV companies to fly over multi-million dollar properties that they’re trying to sell, gorgeous, sweeping shots that look like they were filmed for a movie. And the FAA has told them to knock it off as well. That too is a commercial enterprise. I think you’re going to see more and more of this as the technology matures, and people realize that they can do something that is financially in their best interest. They may not be completely aware of what the rules are right now.
Isn’t there also a rule that you can’t fly near people?
Waite: I think the wording is that you can’t fly [a drone] in built-up areas. Which is to say near a lot of houses or near people. So that’s tough. Certainly for a lot of journalism, and certainly with realtors, and people like that trying to use them—I’ve said before that the recreational rules right now are: you can’t fly over 400 feet; you can’t be out of the line of sight of the operator; you can’t fly near built-up areas; and you can’t use it for commercial purposes. If it were just the first three, I think drone journalism would be going on right now. The commercial purposes one is the one that’s just…you can’t get around that one. There’s nothing you can do about that one.
There is journalism to be done where there aren’t people, or where there are few people. Stories about the environment, stories about wildlife, stories about rural areas. I live in the Great Plains, so agriculture is a big thing out here. So is the weather. If a severe storm blows through an area, it could potentially do millions and millions of dollars of damage to crops at certain times of the year. We’re going through the worst drought since the 1950s right now. Those are all stories that could be told through the eyes of a UAV, and if I were at a commercial news organization I would be thinking about it. But because of the commercial purposes exemption, it’s just impossible.
I’ve read that you’re working with the university to document the Platte River? Can you tell me about that project?
Waite: Because we’re at a university, because we have no commercial interest, we have a little bit of flexibility here. We have at the university multiple groups working on projects out on the Platte River, which is a major water source that runs through the middle of the state. The Platte runs in some very rural areas, so we can go out there with UAVs and fly under recreational rules, where we’re nowhere near people. We’re far away from airports, we’re under 400 feet, and well within the line of sight at any time. We’ve produced some really amazing video from those places.
And you’re documenting the water levels, the drought?
Waite: We’re documenting the drought, and we’re documenting just what we did, because this is such a new thing that it’s interesting how we go about this.