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 4 of 6)
We wouldn’t be able to do it without the help of another lab here on campus, called the NIMBUS [Nebraska Intelligent MoBile Unmanned Systems] Lab. They are in the computer science and engineering department, and they’ve been working on issues involving UAVs for quite a while now. They volunteered to go out with us on the Platte, and we used their gear (we’re still waiting on our own gear). They have multiple varieties of UAVs, and they are looking for new and interesting ways to use them.
What types of UAVs did you use for this project?
Waite: The one that we mainly relied on is [from a] company called Ascending Technologies, a German company. And they have a device called the Falcon 8. It is an 8-rotored helicopter that has a camera mounted on the front of it that I believe goes for about $25,000. Which is why I’m glad the folks from the NIMBUS Lab were there with us.
I’ve got a little one here that I bought myself, it’s a Parrot AR drone, a $300 toy you can get at Brookstone at the mall. It’s a little quad-rotor that you can fly with your iPhone. It’s a toy, so it crashes a lot and it breaks a lot. So that’s my frame of reference on flying these things. This Ascending Technologies Falcon 8, if I had flown it and crashed it, I would have been handing them the keys to my car, and saying, “Yeah, I probably owe you another $20,000. Sorry!”
That’s the one we mostly used. They did some experiments with their Hummingbird, which is a quad-copter, four rotors, and we also brought one of the Parrot AR drones just for kicks because we had it right there. But the Falcon 8 is the one that did the most work. It is most steady, it had the best camera, it had the most range. It was a fantastic piece of technology.
How long can it stay in the air?
Waite: Most multi-rotor helicopters have the same amount of flight time, which is right about 15 to 20 minutes. I think we were getting between 13 and 15 minutes. It was an exceptionally calm day, almost shockingly calm for out here on the Great Plains, and beautiful and sunny that day.
Until the FAA comes out with rules for commercial use of drones [Sept 2015], will the Lab focus more on examining the ethical issues of drone journalism?