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Apparently It’s OK to Fly a Video Drone Over a Fire in Dayton

Dayton DroneFor Dayton, OH, FOX affiliate WRGT, the top local story last night was a fire burning downtown…and what the station said were “all the drones flying above the flames.”

In our TVNewser Show on April 29th, we will be discussing the increasing use of drones in journalism.

Unlike the drone incident in Hartford, CT, where a UAV operator got into trouble with local authorities when he flew his drone above a crime scene, Dayton firefighters seemed to see the upside of the aerial view. There’s no word on what the FAA thinks.

“It’s just another case of advances in technology being used for intentions that they were never intended for but in a case like this, if you can get an aerial view of a burning building, it’s very helpful,” said Dayton District Fire Chief Vincent Wiley.

Self-described video hobbyist Bob Ellis told WRGT, “I thought it would be a good opportunity to get some video footage.”

Firefighters say they want to look at the footage since they consider the fire suspicious. Ellis told the station he’d be happy to help.

Click here to watch the story.


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Drone Shoots Harlem Building Collapse. Raises Issues About Regulation

drone13n-1-webWhen two buildings collapsed in Harlem killing 8 and injuring more than 70, a local man’s first reaction was to grab his three pound drone and head to the site.

Brian Wilson used his DJI Phantom drone to shoot images while the scene was still shrouded in dust. The New York Daily News ran Wilson’s video on its website. The picture to the left is from his drone.

In our TVNewser Show on April 29th, we will be discussing the increasing use of drones in journalism.

The Daily Beast made the 45-year-old New Jersey native an example of the larger issue surrounding the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in gathering news, something some local stations have already been experimenting with.

For a man who just filmed a close up of a real-life horror film, he seems virtually emotionless. His demeanor, in fact, strangely mimics that of his aircraft: robotic. Drone in hand, he’s returning to the scene to capture the pile of rubble where as many as fourteen people could be trapped.

Calling Wilson’s flight “one step forward for drones, two steps back for drone journalists the article raises the question: Because anyone can do it, does it mean they should? Read more

Legality, Risk Hover Over Use of Drones By News Stations


The increasing use of drones by media companies is one of the topics we’ll be discussing at the TVNewser Show April 29. This post’s author, attorney C. Andrew Keisner, will be among the guests discussing the issue.

From advertising of real estate and car dealerships to filming Hollywood blockbusters to media coverage of sporting events, examples of advertising & media companies using light-weight UAVs, or Drones, is all around. However, when it comes to using such light-weight UAVs in the United States, the legal risks are frequently misunderstood. And although a recent judge’s decision rejecting a $10,000 fine imposed by the FAA is a welcome outcome for UAV operators and the advertising & media companies that engage them, there are still several risks that advertising & media companies should address before engaging a UAV operator to capture aerial footage.

Read more

Judge Overturns FAA Fine Against Video Drone Operator

drone_AP_croppedA National Transportation Safety Board Judge has dismissed a $10,000 fine levied by the Federal Aviation Administration against a man who used a drone to shoot a promotional video.

Raphael Pirker was accused of reckless flying by the FAA for using a model airplane to shoot a video for the University of Virginia in October 2011.

Judge Patrick Geraghty ruled the FAA has no authority over small unmanned aircraft.

RELATED: WFSB Employee Involved in Drone Incident Sues Police

“This has very significant implications for companies that have been eager to proceed with commercial applications for UAS technologies,” Pirker’s attorney Brendan Schulman told Bloomberg.

The decision is a setback for the FAA, which has held that U.S. commercial drone flights are prohibited until it writes rules governing their use. “We are reviewing the decision,” the agency said in an e-mailed statement. It has the option to appeal. Read more

Are Rules Against Using Drones for News Gathering a Double Standard?

drone_AP_croppedWhen WFSB employee Pedro Rivera sued the Hartford Police after they prevented him from using his drone to document a car crash, he brought the issue surrounding drone use by local TV stations to the forefront.

Matthew Schroyer, founder and president of Professional Society of Drone Journalists, told The Atlantic he thinks the case reveals a double standard for journalists who want to use unmanned vehicles to shoot news.

“Other photographers who arrived documented the scene with telephoto lenses, which were much more intrusive than Rivera’s drone,” said the PSDJ in a statement. “Yet those journalists were never questioned, let alone expelled from the scene, pursued and suspended. The actions of the Hartford police in this incident were uncalled for, and are an affront to press freedom.”

While a few stations have used drones for one off reports, none have taken the bold step of adding a drone as a regular feature.

Schroyer thinks the United States should look to the example of Canada and Australia, both of which have implemented rules to govern the use of drones for commercial purposes, including journalism. “They require certification,” says Schroyer, who says that his organization supports setting a standard for commercial UAS pilots. He compared a drone to a car, both in terms of its usefulness and in terms of how responsible a user should be. “You can’t just walk into a DMV as a journalist and say, I need to drive to do my job.” It makes sense, says Schroyer, to require the equivalent of a driver’s license. Read more

Pennsylvania Station Uses Drone for Traffic Shot During Newscast

After an off-duty photographer for Hartford’s WFSB ran into trouble with local police and sparked an FAA investigation for using a drone to shoot a police investigation, you’d think stations would reconsider using the unmanned vehicles for newsgathering.

Wednesday, Altoona, PA, CBS affiliate WTAJ aired footage from its “WTAJ Drone” to show the aftermath of a traffic accident on a local interstate during its 5:00 p.m. news and posted the footage on its facebook page.

WTAJ’s viewers seemed unimpressed regardless of the FAA’s position against using drones for commercial purposes, “Why even post this video?” one viewer commented on the station’s facebook page. “This sucked. I wish I had those 35 seconds of my life back.”

TVSpy asked WTAJ for comment. We have not heard back.