Drone media?

Here comes the fly-by media. Preliminary use of diminutive drones is under way among those who see the potential of drones in news gathering, not to mention invasive “gotcha”-style journalism. Deadline Detroit — “a homegrown media revolution” manned by former veteran journalists — has already used footage made by “Tretch5000,” an anonymous hobbyist who used a camera-mounted drone to peek inside abandoned housing and old civic buildings, producing a telling video vignette.

“There’s a part of me that finds this kind of creepy and fraught with ‘big brother is watching’ issues. While we might trust public radio journalists and academics, there were rumors earlier this week that TMZ had purchased a drone to assist in its paparazzi-style coverage of celebrities,” says Vince Duffy, chairman of the Radio Television Digital News Association.

“But why wouldn’t they get one? Could websites that cover celebrities resist the urge to fly drones over celebrity weddings, outdoor red carpets, and beaches where starlets might be caught topless?” Mr. Duffy asks.

The University of Missouri has awarded a $25,000 grant to public radio station KBIA to explore drone journalism in places “reporters can’t go or reach,” while the University of Nebraska has won $50,000 from the Knight Foundation for a new Drone Journalism Lab.Mr. Duffy points out that the Federal Aviation Administration requires unmanned aircraft systems to be within the operator’s line of sight, cruise below 400 feet during daylight hours and avoid airports, among other things.

“Journalism organizations would certainly have many reasons to fly drones far from the person controlling it, or on some type of preprogrammed autopilot course,” Mr. Duffy says. “The FAA is looking into how it can regulate the coming ‘drone age’ safely. They expect to have new rules by 2015. The ethical issues for using drones for journalism will probably be up in the air much after that.” – Washington Times