Leo Sopicki

Oct 5, 2015 1:34:00 PM

hongkong
Dronalism – the use of drones to provide TV news footage – will be coming soon to a station near you. Or maybe not. TV journalists, like many early adopters of drone technology, face resistance from a variety of sources. At InterDrone, the International Drone Conference in Las Vegas, Sept. 9-11, a panel led by veteran Las Vegas news anchor and sportscaster Ron Frutell explored the challenges, growing pains and future facing cutting-edge broadcasters.

Frutell was joined by Gary Buzel, an Emmy Award winning journalist, pilot and former police officer; Sally French, an educator and journalist whose work has appeared on CNN, the BBC, Forbes, and The Economist; and Parker Gyokeres, retired Air Force photojournalist and board member of the Professional Society of Drone Journalists (PSDJ).

Challenges

Frutell first asked if broadcasters should expect any resistance to adopting drones.

Buzel volunteered that you should expect resistance from all sectors. “Management will be worried about liability, there will be legislative setbacks, and fire chiefs don’t want to see any drones around their operations. At San Diego 6, we’re using our drone mostly for feature stories or sweeps pieces. Eventually, we want to use it for news.”

Educators were also running into roadblocks, according to French. “We knew we could not use it commercially,” she admitted, “but we thought operating as a journalism class for an editorial purpose, we would be all right.”

French volunteered her class to help the local NPR station with a feature on a wildfire. “We worked with the fire department to show how close the fire got to the freeway,” she explained, “and the total extent of the fire. Shortly after it aired we got a cease-and-desist order from the FAA. We still talk about aero-journalism in class, but, no more flying.”

Gyokeres said the PSDJ was focusing on this as a First Amendment issue. “We’re in the process of getting our 333 exemption [an FAA exemption certifying commercial use] and are focusing on feature news.” He pointed out an additional challenge he’s run into: “Bystanders can’t yell at a helicopter pilot,” he said, “but they can yell at a drone pilot.”

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