Syrian rebels this week showed off a miniature drone that they claim to have brought down using frequency interference. Fighters from the Free Syrian Army told Reuters that the unmanned, remote-controlled aircraft belonged to President Bashar al-Assad’s forces. The reb &
Click through to the link. The “government drone” they “captured” is a DJI Phantom with a GoPro camera mounted to it. You can buy these on the internet. The operator almost certainly crashed it, which was how it was “captured.”
Calling something a “drone” in the context of war carries with it huge connotations. A $500 remote-controlled quadcopter, as great as they are, hardly qualifies as a “drone.”
Palo Alto High School starts using drones for journalism
By Daniel Wheaton
Until now, only a few colleges, freelancers and news organizations have attempted to use a drone for journalism. But there is a younger newcomer — Palo Alto High School.
On Sept. 13, four journalism students flew a DJI Phantom quadcopter over the dedication of their high school’s new football field.
Once the angle on the Go Pro camera was correct, they sent it up high, out of the range of the fireworks show and captured the unrolling of a massive flag.
Journalism teacher Paul Kandell had the idea to use drones when he saw a Parrot AR drone in a Brookstone store in an Arizona airport. Because of its reasonable price, he purchased one and took to the skies. He told the Paly Voice he enjoys “bringing Silicon Valley into my classroom, getting my students to push the envelope with new technology.”
I was asked if this was a big moment in journalism. It depends on how much UAVs end up becoming a part of journalism. That said, one of the most respected journalism institutions in the world is legally in the air doing journalism with a multirotor. That isn’t small. — Matt Waite
The GitHub repository is organized by the individual screens that applicants must fill out to get a COA. In each folder, there is a PDF of the screen itself and a Markdown file of the text of the screens plus our answers to some of the questions. We will be adding more answers as we complete them.
Unfamiliar with GitHub and Markdown? You can click on the folders and then on the files themselves and GitHub will render the Markdown files as they should appear. There’s also a link on the right where you can download the entire repository as a Zip file. There are numerous free Markdown editors out there.
Familiar with GitHub and want to help out? Pull requests are welcome. Are you in the COA process and want to add your answers? We’d love it. The more information we all have, the better.
On Sept. 1, Reforma in Mexico City used a small quadcopter to cover a protest. From the video, you can see people clustering at various points around the city, as well as walls of police, many of whom looked up to see what was buzzing overhead.
How did Reforma get into Drone Journalism? And what steps did they take to start? Luis De Uriarte, the deputy director of electronic media, explains in this 8 minute audio clip.
News outlets haven’t totally embraced drones yet due to murky FAA regulations, but when they do, I want to be ready for it. I envision a world 20 years from now where every newsroom has its own drone journalist. I hope to be one.
In the few times that the Drone Journalism Lab in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Journalism and Mass Communications had gone outside and flown a small multi-rotored aircraft — call it a drone, call it a UAV, call it what you will — we’d followed the rules set out for hobbyists. We flew well under 400 feet, far from people, far from airports and always within our line of sight. Our thinking was that following these rules were sensible since we weren’t a commercial entity nor had a commercial interest in what we were doing, and our research was more about the product than the vehicle.
The permit I need, called a certificate of authorization or COA, is the same one everyone from local police departments flying small UAVs to Customs and Border Patrol officials flying unarmed Predator drones all have to get. Geologists, forest managers, and yes, university professors, all have to get these permits.
There are so many unanswered questions about using drones for journalism that it hardly makes sense to stop now. So we’re applying for a COA. The people at the FAA with whom we’ve talked have been very helpful and matter-of-fact about getting one. It’ll take time and a fair amount of documentation, they’ve told us, but provided we follow the rules it should happen.
The COA process, as it stands now, is antithetical to journalism. Permits take months. You have to apply to fly in a specific location — months in advance, mind you — and your chances of getting a permit drop if you ask for a place in restricted airspace. Don’t know if you’re in restricted airspace? Chances are, if you’re reading this in a city, you are. This map will tell you. If you’re in a purple circle, you’re in restricted airspace.
So the kinds of stories we can do are going to be very limited. But we’ll still be able to experiment in ways news organizations and private entities will not.
Keep in mind, the COA process is changing and will change dramatically in the next few years. We stand to learn a great deal about future regulation by experiencing it now, when the rules are the strictest.
And, from this experience, we’ve decided to hold the first Drone Journalism Conference in Lincoln, Neb. on Oct. 24, 25 and 26. We’re bringing in experts on privacy, ethics, the law and journalism. We’re going to share what we know so others can learn and do their own research. And we’re going to do a demo … indoors.
Spiegel Online: Snapping Tina’s Wedding: Paparazzi Turn to Drones — Did the paps turn to drones? Yep. One guy. Who got arrested and shut down before he could take a photo. The shot of the famous wedding everyone ran? Came from a manned aircraft. Same as it ever was.
The Verge: Drones to scour the skies for US businesses after FAA approval — It’s a legitimately interesting story that the FAA has approved airworthiness certificates for UAVs for commercial use for the first time. However, no one seems to be noting the significance that they’re approved for use over the ocean in Alaska, far from people or busy airspace, and certainly not over “American soil” unless you call the frozen waters of the Beaufort Sea “soil.”
Scott Pham at Mizzou/KBIA recounts his experience with Missouri’s Drone Journalism program and the Missouri Legislature.
As I watched what was happening before me, I couldn’t help but feel angry. On one level, there’s the simple frustration anyone has when someone else interferes with your plans. But it’s quite another thing to get caught up in one man’s misinformed battle with the federal government.
A man named Jenk K is using a DJI Phantom to film the events going on in Taksim Square in Istanbul. The images are fascinating. Around 4:10, you’ll see the police start using water cannons to clear the square.
We’re, of course, interested in how media might use drones to capture images like these, but in places where media is controlled and images aren’t getting out, drones + the internet are a powerful tool to show the world what’s going on. And it opens up fascinating questions about how semi-autonomous flight is a necessary component to keep the protester/pilot safe.
The county commissioners say they won’t foot the bill for a crane, and they don’t think the helicopter owner’s suggestion to have someone rappel from a real chopper and snatch the miniature one off is, well, very realistic or worthwhile.
Callers tell FAA of privacy, safety concerns over drones
The FAA held a teleconference today to talk about privacy policies around the six UAV test sites they’ve yet to announce. Pepperdine University Law Professor Greg McNeal and EPIC Privacy’s Amie Stepanovich live tweeted the event with their reactions.
What exactly is a drone? Is it the $300 toy we have in the lab? Or only military grade hardware? UAV? UAS? RPAS? An excellent piece about the definitional war going on over … that thing without a pilot onboard in the sky.
Friend of the lab Mark Corcoran reports for Australia’s ABC that regulators there have proposed a weight based system that would make it much easier to use the technology legally. For instance, devices less than 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) could fly “after completing nothing more than an online application form.”
Also worth noting: Fox Sports is using a UAV to cover Cricket in Australia.
From the story: “Tens of thousands of domestic drones are zipping through U.S. skies, often flouting tight federal restrictions on drone use that require even the police and the military to get special permits.”
We don’t know where they came up with that number — it’s nowhere else in the story — but that seems high, unless you count all the hobbyists flying legally in that number. Not saying the flouting of the rules doesn’t happen — it does — just that “tens of thousands” might be overstating it.
Also, it’s worth pointing out: Media does not equal paparazzi. Fear of paparazzi drone abuse is legit, but people should be careful to equate all media with paparazzi.
“If they want to learn about it, that’s perfectly fine,” said Guernsey, whose district includes parts of four counties in northwest Missouri. “If we are moving into an age of news agencies using drones to collect information on private citizens, I’m definitely concerned about that.”
Aerial drones are fun to fly. And that’s a problem in the mind of Nebraska Sen. Paul Schumacher of Columbus.
“They’re too much fun not to use,” said Schumacher, who proposed The Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act, a legislative bill that would prevent drones from landing in the hands of Nebraska law enforcement agencies.
The state Legislature’s Judiciary Committee warmly received the bill, LB412, at a hearing Thursday.
Schumacher presented his bill as a proactive measure to prevent Nebraska law enforcement agencies from using unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly called drones, to gather information that could be used against a person in court, except to counter the high risk of a terrorist attack.
Acknowledging the potential positive aspects of drone use, such as for search and rescue operations, Schumacher explicitly left open the possibility for agencies to request future legislatures to grant further exceptions to the bill.
"The FAA recognizes that increasing the use of [drones] raises privacy concerns," according a letter the agency sent this week to Marc Rotenberg, president of civil rights group Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC). “The agency intends to address these issues through engagement and collaboration with the public.”
"The FAA rules are very clear about for-compensation and hire. If you’re going to operate an aircraft for compensation or hire, there’s a different set of rules that apply." — Jim Williams of the Federal Aviation Administration.
"Everyone knows the experimental certificate process is available but not actually functional.” — Jeremy Novara, owner of Vanilla Aircraft.