Americas Drone Journalism Multirotor

Why drone journalism is in for a rocky ride

by Nicole Martinelli

Airborne newsgathering is a hot topic, but some experts believe that drone journalism may have a hard time really getting off the ground.

After spotting cameras on the wing snapping spectacular footage of protests and natural disasters, I wanted to learn more, so I enlisted Burt Herman of Hacks/Hackers and we gathered Chris Anderson of Wired, Jennifer Lynch of the EFF, Tyler Brown of the Occucopter project and Matt Waite of the Drone Journalism Lab for a recent meetup at Storify headquarters.

The upshot: the difficulties and danger of flying unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) may result in failure to launch a major trend soon, but journalists will still be writing about them. And there will probably a few journalists who won’t mind running afoul of the law to try them out, anyway.

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4 thoughts on “Why drone journalism is in for a rocky ride
  1. I am not sure if I really understand the concept of “drone journalism” sUAS are simply tools like cameras and microphones and note pads (if they still use them) Does the use of sUAS warrant a new “category” of news gathering?

  2. True, sUAS are indeed tools tools that the journalist can use to gather footage. However, sUAS are capable of much more. They can gather useful topographical and environmental information, produce environmental surveys for investigative reporting. They can be taught many useful tricks, can be outfitted with advanced sensor packages, and can even learn to scout for data.

    The best way I can describe the field is in terms of established fields. Journalists can investigate and write stories, and increasingly, using digital tools to assist reporting. Photojournalists and videographers can document moments visually. Drone journalism also has a unique skill set: deploying and operating UAS, knowing the kind information the craft can obtain, and packaging that information in an accessible format that the public can understand.

    Matthew Schroyer,

  3. There are multirotors developed to work reliably and safely, and then there are the kind of tinkerer’s contraptions that we see all too often from the likes of DIY Drones, KK, MultiWii and such.
    Yes, there is now a new category. We have already seen this in a growing number of drone assisted documentaries and, of course, news footage. But what I find most exciting about the emergence of drone based videography is the growing array of applications it is finding.
    Just about everywhere you find a need for a view of what is going on, you find a use for a drone.
    The only risk I see in the development of this fantastic new industry (civilian low cost UAVs) is the danger of it being shut down by authorities due accidents with hobbyist rubbish by those who have no respect for the technology or the community.

  4. The above comments and others elsewhere naturally lead on to some interesting possible future developements. We have all seen the scrums of paparazzi at “Occasions” and “Celebrities”, jostling and shoving each other in order to get that lucrative front page pic; could well lead to dog-fighting multicopters overhead a photo/vid opportunity. Headlines…. “Star injured by crashing photocopter. Police seeking unlicensed operator”. And then…….

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