Flying journalism robots: In your skies soonTrends in Communication & Information Technology JOUR 4871-003
Drones (a.k.a., Unmanned AerialVehicles) for journalists? Parrot drone: $300 iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android controlled. HD photos, video. Range: 165 feet Aeryon Scout drone: $30,000-$100,000 Tablet controlled, map interface. ...Very quiet. 1.9 -mile range. ... 300-500’ ... 31mph Tested up top 13,000’ above sea level. Tap on map waypoints; drone ﬂies route. “Follow me” mode. Parrot drone: $380, Button push for drone to return “home.” with blade protector/indoor Uses: Monitored Gulf BP oil spill; hull. aerial spying by Libyan rebels.
Affordable high-end photo/video drone: $5,000 GPS and routing software 2 operators: 1st for ﬂight, 2nd for photo control Used by “Top Gear” BBC car show for aerial shots (cheaper than old method: renting helicopter)
Someday soon: Pilotless TV-news choppers Schiebel Corporation’s Camcopter $400,000 Fly up to 18,000 feet Speed up to 240 km per hour
The news potential of drones: An example New Scientist Tech, February 2012 SHOW DROUGHT VIDEO
Cool...Can carry various cameras (smartphones, DSLRs, etc.)Fly over wildﬁre to get photos, video footage (if allowed!)Fly over tornado-, hurricane-devastated city or areaFly over inaccessible ﬂooded areasFly over protest; better estimate of crowd sizeUseful for war correspondents; ﬁlm in unsafe areasCarry various sensors (e.g., radiation sensor over nuclear-plant accident area)GPS ... Night-vision capabilityExpensive drones also can ﬂy pre-set route themselves; takephotos/video where told to ... then ﬂy back on their ownInexpensive drones “piloted” by tablet or smartphone
Not cool ...Safety issues ﬂying over people (legal liability for injuries, etc.)Avoid real airplanes (geese have caused jet crashes ... couldsmall drone?)People’s fear of “ﬂying robots” ... “Big Brother”Privacy invasion concerns (e.g., Seattle Police droneblowback)Ethics issues: Journalists using drones need to settle onacceptable conductSomeone might shoot it down (annoyed citizen; protesterthinking it’s police or government watching; hunters alreadyhave shot down drones of animal-protection activists)
U.S. FAA regulationsSmall drones OK for “hobbyists” but not commercial usersDrone licenses can be had by: • Universities • The military • Government agencies • Police departmentsActivists, non-proﬁts? ... Law is squishyNot legal to use for commercial journalism (yet)Only in open areas (no people or structures nearby)No higher than 400 feet (500 feet up is commercial airspace)No closer than 3 miles from an airport
Who will be able to fly drones next?Law-enforcement agencies: FAA accommodating them ﬁrstLaw-enforcement drone: • Weight limit: 25 pounds • Can ﬂy in controlled airspaceJournalism drones (US) not likely legal till 2015 • Congress gave FAA till 2015 to ﬁnalize rules, regulations affecting drone use by commercial entitiesCommercial interests lobbying hard for legal OKCommercial drones expected to become huge business • Railroads, pipelines, power lines: check condition at low cost • Farmers, ranchers: check on crops, animalsJournalism may sneak in with commercial approval
Legal considerations Legal to photograph/video in public airspace (above others’ property) ... US privacy law allows, for now • Drones legal in Australia: hobbyists unregulated, commercial must be licensed • “Mostly” legal in China At what height? ... 300-400 feet, probably OK ... hover directly over a house, very low, probably not Paparazzi: Huge potential for abuse! What’s legal?• Drone above celebrity wedding• Drone peers in celebrity’s hotel-room window• Drone follows (stalks) celebrity Legal precedent will be needed At least we can discuss prior to technology being in the air!
First draft of a drone journalism code of ethics
Drone journalism resourcesDrone Journalism Lab - University of Nebraska at Lincolnhttp://dronejournalismlab.orgMental Munition Laboratory bloghttp://mentalmunition.comDromeJournalism.org