The days of reporting with a full crew from a helicopter are quickly giving way to unmanned flight. The increasing accessibility of drones, combined with the rapid deployment options they offer, make them the obvious choice over more complicated flights requiring the full complement of skilled operators. The modern day news cycle Electronic News Gathering (ENG) has literally taken flight in an attempt to show viewers the full scope of the situation.
For example, viewers can witness emotional scenes of how destructive mother nature can be through bird’s eye angles captured by UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or, more commonly, drones). These types of natural disasters can happen anywhere in the world, and the fact is, viewers want to get full coverage news reports as quickly and as comprehensively as possible. And, of course, it’s not just the results of the forces of nature that can be captured.
Drones have several advantages when it comes to broadcasting news, as they are smaller and less expensive than helicopters and also offer greater safety for users in non-military operations. In fact, aerial shots are quickly becoming commonplace for viewers, and with major news outlets jumping on the trend, it proves that drone applications in broadcast are gaining traction. The aviation authorities are making headway in creating new legislation, giving mainstream media outlets the ability to take advantage of aerial camera platforms.
Although UAVs are still a relatively new tool for gathering footage, TV stations and networks around the world are establishing relationships with legally operated drone providers to get aerial footage faster and cheaper than ever before. Modern drones, such as the DJI Phantom or DJI Inspire 1, offer the latest in fully gyro-stabilised 4k footage, which is great news for broadcast agencies. Simply remove the vehicle from the ENG car or van and within 30 seconds you are able to give the public access to national cataclysms, weather events or aerial landscape shots that can be transmitted live.
This year has proved to be the breakout year for drone journalism. In the US, for instance, institutions such as the University of Nebraska recognise this breakthrough and are becoming leading forces in this movement. Former journalist Matt Waite, won a $50,000 grant from the Knight Foundation to kick-start a small drone programme at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where they have established a ‘Drone Journalism Lab’. Initially, they were a bit ahead of the curve, as a cease-and-desist letter from the aviation authorities grounded them for some time, but these latest rules are going to give much more freedom to those organisations that abide. With that success, we may see media colleges in other parts of the world follow suit.
With that, the sky is the limit…as long as the sky is not higher than 400 feet above ground level.
By Nils Granholm, drone expert at Adorama Drone Experience