Coming soon: News via drone?
Ten media organizations, including The Washington Post, said Thursday that they will test the feasibility of gathering news via unmanned, or drone, aircraft.
The group will work with Virginia Tech to test the use of drones to cover stories by, among other methods, taking photos and video in remote or dangerous locations. Virginia Tech administers one of six test sites that Congress established to enable the Federal Aviation Administration to study the use of drones inside the United States.
The news comes three days after CNN announced that it is pursuing its own drone tests in cooperation with the FAA and Georgia Tech.
Theoretically, drones could be equipped with cameras and recorders to fly near fires and the sites of natural disasters, as well as to monitor traffic or large demonstrations. News organizations have used helicopters and small fixed-wing planes for this purpose for years, but drones could be a cheaper and more flexible option.
The media coalition includes the owners of some of the largest newspaper, wire service and TV-station operations in the United States. In addition to The Post, it includes the New York Times Co., Gannett Co., Advance Publications, A.H. Belo Corp., the Associated Press, Getty Images, NBC Universal, E.W. Scripps Co. and Sinclair Broadcast Group.
In a statement, Santiago Lyon, AP’s director of photography, said the companies are seeking to explore “the safe and responsible use of drone technology” for newsgathering.
Several industries have been pressing the FAA for the expanded use of drone aircraft in the United States, but the agency first wants to assess the safety implications of drone use, particularly its effect on commercial and general aviation. The agency is several years away from finalizing regulations on commercial drone use.
Drones could be “a safe, efficient, timely and affordable way to gather and disseminate information and keep journalists out of harm’s way,” said Rose Mooney, executive director of Virginia Tech’s Mid Atlantic Aviation Partnership, in the statement.
The Post is owned by Amazon founder Jeffrey P. Bezos, whose company has explored using drones to deliver packages to customers.