TV Stations Planning How They'll Use Drones

Jul 27, 2015

Under strict guidelines from the Federal Aviation Administration, a few U.S. TV stations are airing live drone video. ABC7  says it was the first station in the San Francisco  Bay area to broadcast live from a drone. This month DroneView7 flew over and around Candlestick Park.

The TV station was not operating the drone. That was done by Las Vegas-based Arrow Data, the first company in the nation to get permission to fly drones commercially.

Let’s face it. Drones are a quick, inexpensive way to get news footage on the air. There doesn’t have to be a news crew and the unmanned aerial system won’t get caught in rush hour traffic. So, while news media wait for the Federal Aviation Administration to relax the rules on drones, 15 stations have banded together in a test project, including Cincinnati-based Scripps where Sean McLaughlin is Vice President of News.

The test project, including ABC, NBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Associated Press and Reuters, is taking place in Virginia in partnership with Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech is one of six test sites established by the FAA.

CNN reports it began studying drone operation with the Georgia Institute of Technology a year ago. During conference calls the media outlets talk about practical uses of drones in news coverage.

At least one drone photographer has FAA permission to shoot drone video and sell it to TV stations. Colin Hinkle lives in Chicago and shot this video for his company Soaring Badger Productions.

CNN quotes The Associated Press' vice president and director of global video, Sandy MacIntyre, as saying news outlets will be harnessing "this new technology to inform the world." She calls it a "great step forward in new storytelling."

According to the Poynter Institute:

...businesses, such a newsrooms, must have specific permission from the FAA to fly a drone anywhere at any height. That is why CNN sought a specific permit from the FAA. The current rules PROHIBIT:

  • Professional real estate or wedding photography
  • Professional cinema photography for a film or television production
  • Providing contract services for mapping or land surveys

The exceptions are the handful of instances when the FAA issued a permit. The permit is called an FAA airworthiness certificate, called a “section 333″ permit. Except for the CNN deal, the FAA has not granted exceptions to journalists or journalism schools. The FAA has told at least two journalism schools to ground their drone fleet over public property.  The schools have scaled back their use of drones awaiting FAA permission, but still are making limited use of their aircraft.