Drone raises questions

Story by Lauren Baker

Legal questions are rising across the nation on whether or not drone journalism should be permitted. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations currently state that drones are not to be used for commercial purposes, including journalism.

Drake University purchased a Parrot A.R. Drone 2.0 at the beginning of the school year. Chris Snider, Drake University multimedia professor, said he wanted to purchase a drone for the school of journalism to teach students about the cutting-edge technology present in the media today.

The drone cannot be flown outside, over the campus. So far students have used the drone indoors to shoot video in the studio. Professors have also used the drone for demonstration purposes.

The drone was funded by the E.T. Meredith Center for Magazine Studies at Drake University. Purchasing the drone was the idea of journalism professors Chris Snider and Lori Blachford.

“We can have that discussion about how can these be used and not just in journalism but in advertising and public relations and lots of areas,” Snider said.

Drake University’s drone is a small model that cost approximately $300.

Drake professors are excited to incorporate this new technology into their teaching.

“Technology is changing constantly that certainly journalist are starting to try to incorporate any kind of technology that develops into their news gathering,” said Kathleen Richardson, director and associate professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Drake.

The Des Moines Register currently owns a drone, but due to FAA regulations, it is not allowed to use it. Kelli Brown, senior director of digital at the Register, said being able to use a drone could help her gain a different vantage point on a situation. Access to a drone would allow reporters to capture film and photos in places such as over lakes and on top of buildings.

One major issue with drone use is invasion of privacy. “The obvious legal issues revolve around privacy and the ability of an unmanned aircraft to infringe on that privacy,” said Chris Mudge, executive director of the Iowa Newspaper Association.

There are also safety issues. Larger drones can interfere with aviation. Drones can also run into things and cause damage. Brown said it is important to regulate drones because they can be unpredictable and prone to sudden changes, especially in extreme weather conditions.

There is a law being introduced in the Iowa State legislature this session on whether or not drones should be legal. There are plans for the drone laws to be lifted in 2015. This will allow journalists to use drones for newsgathering.

“We’re excited for further discussion nationwide so that journalists can use this great new tool to offer readers a new vantage point,” Brown said.

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