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Drone journalism resources available

Texas newsrooms have been abuzz over the possibilities that drones could bring to visual storytelling.

UAVs could provide a more cost effective means of getting aerial video than using expensive helicopters, but the same journalism, privacy and liability issues remain.

Up until now, one had to have a licensed pilot on staff to consider it, but now the Federal Aviation Administration’s new rules allow station staff who pass an FAA test to get a federal operators' certificate.

Laura Stefani, an attorney with TAB Associate member law firm Fletcher Heald and Hildreth, has written on the basics of acquiring the FAA certification in a recent piece for FHH’s CommLawBlog.

Her word to the wise?

“The FAA has been training both field staff and local law enforcement on the new rules,” Stefani wrote.

“While the precise penalties for violations have not been spelled out, the FAA does have authority to assess civil penalties up to $27,500 – which provides plenty of incentive to fly lawfully out there!”

While the new FAA operator certification process has made drone journalism within reach for stations, there are still a host of issues for Texas newsrooms to consider before sending a drone into the sky.

Thankfully, there are some good resources available to assist stations with questions as well as providing thoughtful issues to consider.

The Poynter Institute and Columbia Journalism Review published two recent articles which are helpful to those newsrooms considering UAVs for aerial video.

You can read Benjamin Mullin’s blog piece for Poynter here.

Mullin points out that the Knight Foundation funded an open-source and user-friendly Drone Journalism Lab Operations Manual – a 23-page explainer on drone journalism covering all aspects of UAV-based journalism.

Matt Waite, a University of Nebraska professor, and Ben Kreimer, a beta fellow with BuzzFeed’s Open Lab for Journalism, Technology and the Arts, put together the manual.

"What we're hoping to do here is give newsrooms a foundation to work from," Waite told Poynter.

"Some newsrooms will have manned helicopters and experience with this.

Most won't.

We wanted to give everyone from the freelancer to the global media empire a document that helps them stay safe, be smart and use the devices in the right way."

Columbia Journalism Review also talked to Waite for an in-depth article, as well as Bill Allen and Rick Shaw of The Missouri Drone Journalism Program.

The CJR article is a great FAQ style resource which considers all issues of UAV use from the journalist’s perspective.

The National Association of Broadcasters has produced a podcast for stations interested in hearing from experts about deploying a station drone.

The podcast features NAB Vice President of Government Relations Jack Smedile and Lisa Ellman, co-chair, UAS Practice, Hogan Lovells, and is available here.

Questions? Contact TAB's Michael Schneider or call (512) 322-9944.

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