ABC Drone Journalists cover Australia Day


Matt Waite Drone Journalism Lab

A little good news about journalists working with aviation regulators to use drones to cover a story. Australian ABC-TV used a UAV to cover Australia Day ceremonies in Canberra. They got clearance from Australia’s civil aviation authority, CASA, but were allowed to fly near government officials and while fighter jets flew nearby. Mark Corcoran at ABC emailed us some details as well as the photos.

ABC’s live national broadcast of the Australia Day Flag Raising Ceremony in the capital, Canberra on Sunday January 26, included extensive use of UAV vision as an integral part of the multi-camera coverage.

ABC TV Sport and Events Unit engaged a CASA-approved operator, Coptercam. The company had previously flown over the football and cricket for Fox Sports as the ‘FoxKopter’.

The military parade/citizenship event took place on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin. The UAV was required stay 30m clear, over water, but significant none the less as:

The Prime Minister, Governor General and various VIP’s were in attendance, yet security was comfortable with the UAV presence.

CASA permitted the craft to remain airborne as RAAF jets conducted a fly past directly overhead – with about 500 feet separation.

The UAV deployed in Canberra was a slightly modified version of the custom built multi-rotor used for sports coverage as ‘FoxKopter’. Coptercam obtained a CASA exemption to the 30 metre rule, enabling them to fly to within 5 metres of people in the confines of a stadium.

They operate a three member crew; Pilot, camera operator, and director/flight co-ord.

A great proof of concept for all involved.

During the one hour broadcast, the UAV platform went ‘live’ 25 times, for sequences including close-up tracking shots of the flag raising and the twenty one gun salute from Army artillery.

ABC Events Executive Producer David Spencer said “Whilst a lot of what we wanted could have been achieved by a helicopter the noise and visual impact would have been completely unacceptable for the program – let alone the cost…  The result was an exponential leap in the look and visual impact for the program.”

“A UAV was the only option for the shots we wanted.  Prior to the availability of UAV’s with live broadcast quality links, we could only dream of getting these shots”.