The PJ Tatler

Door Opened on Drone Reporting as Media Companies Start Testing

Ten media companies have aligned to test drone newsgathering with Virginia Tech, shortly after CNN announced it would be developing drone reporting with Georgia Tech.

They’re wandering into new territory as regulations currently don’t allow media organizations to use the unmanned aircraft.

Advance Publications Inc., A.H. Belo Corp., The Associated Press, Gannet Co. Inc., Getty Images (U.S.) Inc., NBC Universal, The New York Times Co., The E.W. Scripps Co., Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. and The Washington Post have partnered to test drone newsgathering at the FAA-approved site in Virginia.

At the testing site, one of six approved by Congress as a first step to forging domestic drone regulations, the news agencies will “conduct controlled safety testing of a series of real-life scenarios where the news media could use small UAS technology to gather the news,” according to law firm Holland & Knight.

The firm has been working with the media companies since the middle of last year to come to an agreement on testing.

The Federal Aviation Administration recently entered into a research and development agreement with CNN.

“Our aim is to get beyond hobby-grade equipment and to establish what options are available and workable to produce high-quality video journalism using various types of UAVs and camera setups,” said CNN Senior Vice President David Vigilante. “Our hope is that these efforts contribute to the development of a vibrant ecosystem where operators of various types and sizes can safely operate in the U.S. airspace.”

While the FAA has granted exemptions for the use of drones in other industries including agriculture and film, no media organization has yet been granted permission to use drones for newsgathering.

“Unmanned aircraft offer news organizations significant opportunities,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in a statement. “We hope this agreement with CNN and the work we are doing with other news organizations and associations will help safely integrate unmanned newsgathering technology and operating procedures into the National Airspace System.”