Across the U.S., journalists are sitting, watching, and waiting on the sidelines while the Federal Aviation Administration develops rules for the safe operation of small drones.
A few journalists have experimented with drone technology, using lightweight, remote-controlled craft to shoot aerial pictures and video footage. But under existing FAA guidelines, they’re prohibited from using drones as part of a broader ban on for-profit, commercial operation.
The announcement of new, Congressionally mandated regulations on the commercial use of small drones has already been delayed until November, and any such regulations will be followed by a comment period. Some say the process could take another year or more. Until then, only hobbyists — who are allowed to operate under a 1981 FAA agreement — can use the crafts. And that’s not sitting well with journalists.
“How is it that anyone can go down to a hobby store and fly this around, and me, with $30,000 worth of equipment, I can’t do this?” asked Matt Waite, a journalism professor at the University of Nebraska and founder of the school’sDrone Journalism Lab.
“A 15-year-old kid can walk down there with their birthday money and can be up in the air in an hour,” Waite, who occasionally contributes to Poynter, said by phone.