By Mike Cavender, RTDNA Executive Director
Two separate announcements this week give support to industry efforts to integrate Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) into the newsgathering arena. And we at RTDNA believe both will help us all in our efforts to finally get drones off the ground.
CNN reports the FAA has approved its partnership with Georgia Tech to conduct testing and data-gathering on how to safely integrate drones into the airspace during the newsgathering process. In a separate announcement, a coalition of 10 news media companies are partnering with Virginia Tech to do the same thing. The coalition is comprised of NBC Universal, Sinclair Broadcast Group, the E.W. Scripps Company, Gannett Co., the Associated Press and five others.
The efforts are designed to conduct “controlled safety testing of a series of real-life scenarios where the news media could use small UAS technology to gather the news,” according to a published report on the announcement by the Virginia Tech coalition.
This is good news because it will give the FAA concrete data to review as it formulates rules for the commercial operation of drones in our business. It also supports efforts undertaken for the past year by RTDNA and the NAB to seek temporary exemptions for news organizations to use UAS technology in some limited circumstances while the final rules are being written.
As we’ve written in this space many times over the past few months, it’s long past time to allow this technology to be used for news gathering. Some European countries have permitted it for many months. RTDNA recently asked its members to provide examples of how drones could have helped provide important public safety information along with more effective coverage of stories in their individual markets. The responses were many and that information has become part of the data we’re providing to the FAA for its consideration.
We’re glad to see the FAA take a forward-thinking view on this important issue and we hope the testing and the information gathered through these partnerships will prove both beneficial and effective in convincing the agency to allow drones to take flight as soon as possible. We’ll keep you posted on RTDNA’s efforts.