It’s a Bird … It’s a Drone!

The word “drone” can bring up some complicated feelings among people these days. If you’re like me and you come from a military/government background, you picture the unmanned aerial vehicles that are used in military operations and have a generally negative reputation among the general public. If you’re into photography or videography, on the other hand, you might picture the little flying “eyes in the sky” that have gained popularity in the last few years. And maybe there’s a small population who would automatically think of worker bees, but we won’t get into that.

The fact is, of all the innovations we’ve studied in this class, drones probably have the highest chance of directly affecting the world of journalism in the very near future. Why is that? Well, in my humble opinion, it’s because drones use cameras that produce traditional photos and video, which can be consumed on traditional channels and don’t require any new technology for viewers, and because they are readily available and not too difficult to use. A hobbyist with a little experience flying remote-controlled airplanes can pick up drone flying without too much effort. And a consumer doesn’t need to strap on a VR headset or even download a new app to view the videos produced by drones (until you get into using a 360 camera on a drone).

Drones also have a lot of potential for journalism and many other industries. The benefits of low-cost aerial footage that can be obtained from a distance would apply to many different types of journalism stories: sports, natural disasters, large events, military training and operations, environmental issues, travel, and so on. And as journalists continue to test new technologies and innovate, those can be applied to drones, pushing the boundaries of what is possible. Already people have tries using a 360 camera on a drone and using drones to create 3D models of large areas or buildings. Now that the FAA has relaxed its rules on commercial drone pilot requirements, it is predicting that as many as 600,000 drones could be used within the next year. That’s a lot of people pushing boundaries and finding new ways to use those “eyes in the sky.”

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