TV newsgathering gadgetry doesn’t get any sexier than the Camcopter S-100, a military-grade unmanned air vehicle, or UAV, manufactured by the Austrian Schiebel Corp.
Now, thanks to Schiebel’s partnerships with the U.S. companies Brain Farm and Snaproll Media, both of which specialize in aerial photography, the Camcopter is capable of capturing high-def, broadcast-quality footage, while hovering over anything from wildfires and disaster zones to high-speed police chases.
The Camcopter is one of a growing array of UAVs or drones that are being developed for broadcasting, public safety, search and rescue, agriculture and other commercial applications — all in anticipation of new Federal Aviation Administration regulations authorizing and governing such uses.
Drones are a less costly and potentially more capable replacement for manned helicopters. But before ENG drones routinely hover over burning buildings, broadcasters are beginning to realize they may have to fight a battle at the FAA and in Congress over when and how they can be deployed.
Matt Waite is a University of Nebraska-Lincoln journalism professor who created the Drone Journalism Lab last November to study practical and ethical issues surrounding drones.
Housed in small, shared on-campus space, the lab received a $50,000 Knight Foundation grant to get underway. Waite says he’d ultimately like to get permission to operate UAVs.
According to Waite, drones are attractive on a number of levels and cost is among them. Their one-time expense is considerably less than operating manned helicopters, which can run into six figures every year. “If I can buy this for a half-million dollars, it’s still a savings,” Waite says. “From a business standpoint, it makes perfect sense.”
Drones can also be faster and easier to deploy than manned choppers, he says. “I can foresee a time when newsrooms have multiples of them.”