By Matt Waite, Today, TheTyee.ca
I don't know anything about you, but I bet I can place your reaction to what I'm about to say between two poles. On the one side is "This is the coolest thing I've ever heard of." On the other it's "Stop the world. I want off."
Ready? Flying robots with cameras. For journalists.
Drones for journalism dawned on me a year ago, at a mapping conference in San Diego. In the cavernous vendor showcase at the ESRI International Users Conference, I found a Belgian company called Gatewing, selling a product called the X100. It looks like a small remote controlled airplane, but it's a fully-autonomous aerial mapping platform. You take it out, tell it where to take off from, where you want photographed from the air and where you want it to land. And off it goes. No pilot required. I handed the salesman on the floor my wallet and said let me take one home. He politely gave it back, said they were $65,000 and illegal in the U.S.
But I couldn't shake the idea. So I started looking into it, and found out that the FAA was considering new rules for UAVs in the public airways, and that in a few years I might be able to fly drones for news. So I went to my boss, the dean of the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and told him I wanted to start a Drone Journalism Lab.
What are we going to do in a drone lab at a journalism school? Two things: First, figure out how you could cover news with a drone. What will it take? How will it work? What will you need? What do you need to think about before you fly? Second, professional journalism, when done right, operates by a given set of ethics. What new ethical guidelines are needed when using drones? What changes? What's a good use? What's going to get you sued?
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.