TV stations may start using military drones like ‘any other type of news-gathering equipment’
By End the Lie
The Camcopter, a drone developed for military use by Austria’s Schiebel Corporation, could very well be used by television stations and other journalists to gather news in the very near future.
Considering the rise of the use of military drones in concert with law enforcement, the undeniable increase in domestic drone operations and pending explosive growth of drone use in the United States, I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised to see drones being used in news gathering as well.
According to a recent article by TV News Check, drones could be used in the newsgathering process as early as 2015 thanks to the legislation accelerating the integration of drones into the U.S. national airspace passed earlier this year.
The Schiebel Corporation has partnered with Brain Farm and Snaproll Media, both U.S. companies, in order to turn the Camcopter into a platform capable of capturing high-definition, broadcast-quality footage.
Some clearly see a bright future for the use of drones in various commercial applications and especially in the field of journalism.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln journalism professor Matt Waite was given a $50,000 grant from the Knight Foundation to start up the “Drone Journalism Lab” last November.
Waite promotes the supposed benefits of drones to TV News Check, especially in the realm of cost savings.
“If I can buy this for a half-million dollars, it’s still a savings,” said Waite, referring to the projected cost savings involved in operating a drone instead of a traditional manned helicopter.
“From a business standpoint, it makes perfect sense,” Waite added.
Furthermore, due to the relative ease with which drones can be deployed, Waite says that he “can foresee a time when newsrooms have multiples of them.”
In addition, Preston Ryon of Snaproll emphasizes the lack of risk to human life involved in operating drones.
“You’re not risking human life to get a great shot,” said Ryon. However, this ignores the potential danger posed to human life on the ground if a drone crashes.
This risk should not be downplayed since another model of helicopter drone used by the military crashed multiple times, leading to flights being suspended (although the military decided it would be smart to buy more of them regardless).
The Camcopter, while Waite says it may be more affordable in the long run, is by no means cheap with a starting price around $400,000 according to Rotor & Wing magazine.
The Camcopter is relatively small weighing in at just 243 pounds with a standing height of 44 inches and a length of 10 feet. The Camcopter is capable of flying continuously for up to six hours at 138 miles per hour with an operating ceiling of 18,000 feet. It looks much like a traditional helicopter with its rotors and vertical tail, just scaled down and with a few unusual features.
“To me, the potential for using drones is just like the potential for using any other type of news-gathering equipment, whether it would be for helicopters or mobile news vans or hidden camera equipment,” said Mike Cavender, the executive director for the Radio and Television Digital News Association. “All those are tools of the trade and the drone to me is no different.”
However, not all are as optimistic as Cavender and Waite. Mickey Osterreicher, the general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association, while supporting the use of drones, said that those who use them will likely face some lawsuits.
“We will likely have new cases involving civil lawsuits by those who assert that the media has unlawfully intruded upon their privacy rights by recording, publishing or broadcasting images captured by drones,” said Osterreicher to the Harvard Law & Policy Review, according to CBS Washington.
“This will also have the usual ‘right to be left alone’ causes of action with the concomitant false light and public figure implications, as well as intrusion of solitude or public disclosure of private facts and appropriation,” added Osterreicher.
That being said, Osterreicher said that the demand for drones among news organizations will likely quickly grow in the future.
“Reports of drone use by news organizations, Google, sports teams and scientists are on the rise – the technological capabilities are clearly here, and will only become more accessible over time,” explained Osterreicher.
“There are also economical considerations, here: Skyrocketing fuel costs along with increased insurance rates make flying a helicopter or blimp unfeasible,” he said. “When news organizations are laying off staff having a pilot or pilots on the payroll is now an unaffordable luxury, especially when compared to the cost effectiveness of a drone.”
Thankfully, as usual, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) is there to speak out against this trend and reveal the truth about drones.
“Unlike airliners and helicopters, drones are actually designed to conduct surveillance,” Amie Stepanovich, legal counsel for EPIC, explained to TV News Check.
To be perfectly honest, I’d be surprised if news organizations didn’t use drones as part of their newsgathering activities in the very near future. Does this mean it is positive, acceptable or anything short of dangerous? I think not.
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