I’m no expert on drone journalism so a legal memo from the FAA’s Chief Counsel’s Office Media Use of UAS made me turn to Matthew Schroyer. Matthew was one of the pioneer journalists that saw the potential and started building way back when. Yes that’s right before the Phantom!
My simple take on this is that it will only add to the confusion. I also can’t help thinking that the promised FAA App will land folks in trouble if they happen to take photos that they later sell in areas marked as unsuitable for flight by the FAA.
The FAA needs to get some concrete laws through fast and close all the gaps through which folks are flying.
Matts opinion :-
The important thing about this memo is not really what it says, because we’ve known for some time what the FAA thinks of commercial use of drones and journalism based on its public statements and actions. What is important here is we have a memo, something in writing from the Assistant Chief Counsel for Regulations, that engaging in newsgathering is not automatically something that needs to be authorized by the FAA. It means that someone looking to take pictures of something newsworthy can still operate as a hobbyist, as long as their intent is not to sell the pictures.
On the other hand, it’s disturbing to see news organizations lumped in with all other commercial businesses. Many news organizations have to rely on advertisements to make a living and pay their reporters, but they also are Constitutionally protected and play a special role in society. They aren’t the same as your fast food joints, your antique stores, or even your commercial drone filming companies.
There are more questions that this memo brings up than it resolves. What about not-for-profit or newsgathering, which has no commercial aspirations? Grant-funded projects that don’t advertise and don’t have revenue? If the FAA is going to regulate the airspace based on the intent of the operator, we need to get to a place where drone journalism is recognized as being a special, legally-protected action, not a hobby, and not a commercial enterprise.