FAA Proposes New Drone Rules

Feb 19, 2015

An Agribotix drone above a field.
Credit Luke Runyon

The FAA recently proposed new regulations for the use of unmanned aircraft over U.S. airspace -- and it looks like it could be promising for drone journalism. Missouri School of Journalism professors Earnest Perry, Jamie Grey and Amy Simons discuss the issue on KBIA-FM's media criticism program, "Views of the News."

This will not only be useful for broadcast and photojournalism, but as Perry said, it will be good for strategic communication, advertising, public relations, science, and agriculture.

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"Instead of sending someone out in a truck, you can send a drone out to make sure cattle are in a certain area."

A concern, though, is privacy. On the ground right now you have rules and laws that prevent a journalist from invading someone’s privacy. Perry said that he does not see what is keeping someone from taking out their gun and shooting down a drone because of invasion of privacy. The rules for drone journalism are still unclear. 

"There has to be some sort of way to determine where your reasonable expectation of privacy is with a drone."

Even though rules are still fuzzy, Grey said that journalists have always found a way to adapt to situations and new rules. When live trucks became a “thing”, broadcast journalists had to make sure the situation in which they were going live from was not putting anyone in harm's way.

"This is that next conversation of how is this going to work and when is it acceptable and all of those conversations."

As Simons pointed out, the new regulations say that you can’t fly it over people who are not in control of it, which would eliminate a drone going over a protest like what was seen in Ferguson, Missouri. Grey said that there are many more uses for drone journalism, such as covering wildfires and the after affects of natural disasters. Perry agreed and mentioned that getting drones to places that are inaccessible will be a huge help to journalism, especially in regards to weather coverage.

"If we could have gotten a drone up in the air to check on wildfires and where they were burning and how close to homes, that would have been really valuable information for us."

In 2013 the Missouri School of Journalism started a drone journalism project, which the FAA eventually shutdown.