For newsrooms hoping to employ small drones to assist in newsgathering operations, a key issue is a Federal Aviation Administration requirement for permitted users to file notice of such flights 24 hours in advance. The requirement makes breaking news coverage impossible. However, efforts are under way to convince the FAA to relax those requirements for news operations.
In a letter to the FAA today, RTDNA put its support behind commercial drone operator AreoCine, which has petitioned to be exempted from the current rules, to allow flights over people using small drones, and to send out a notice allowing immediate flights in breaking news or emergency situations, without waiting 24 hours for FAA permission.
The letter reads in part, "RTDNA firmly believes that the use of small UAS will enhance journalists’ ability to inform the public in entirely new ways. Most certainly, the capabilities of small UAS will improve the accuracy and depth of information disseminated to the public during times of emergency and other breaking news situations."
“Breaking news demands quick action including, in many cases, access by drone technology,” according to Mike Cavender, RTDNA Executive Director.“ It’s our hope the FAA will understand the urgent nature of this type of news-gathering and that our organizations will make use of this technology responsibly without the need for unworkable regulations, like a 24-hour notice period.”
If an exemption is granted, it would only apply to AreoCine, but it would open the door for other permitted operators to request similar exemptions, while the FAA continues to consider final rules for commercial drone operations.
RTDNA will continue to press the FAA to develop and implement rules allowing newsrooms to operate newsgathering drones, with appropriate provisions for public safety, privacy and breaking news.