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NAB, RTDNA Support Voluntary Drone Guidelines

News budget cuts shrinking helicopter use

The NAB and the Radio Television Digital News Association support voluntary federal guidelines to govern radio and television use of drones for newsgathering.

That’s what they tell the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, which is developing best practices for commercial and private use of unmanned aircraft systems.

NAB and RTDNA say in filed public comments they hope the outcome doesn’t restrict newsgathering. Drones “have the potential to enhance the public’s access to information through compelling and previously inaccessible photos and video.”

On top of substantial procurement costs, operating a helicopter for news coverage costs approximately $1,000 per hour, including the expense of personnel required to fly it. Helicopters have been an early casualty of shrinking news budgets at stations.

Drone use for newsgathering will make it easier and cost-effective for smaller news outlets to use and eliminate safety concerns, according to both organizations. They note that a small Parrot drone for example, which can fly a few hundred feet in the air for about 15 minutes, costs around $300.

Privacy concerns can be mitigated, note NAB and RTDNA, saying journalists have long worked together to balance concerns versus benefits of new technology. Journalists have already “developed voluntary privacy guidelines to address, for example, the use of helicopters, high-resolution satellites, telephoto lenses, hidden cameras, and directional microphones for newsgathering purposes.”

In advance of the government guidelines, radio is thinking about drone use, both for checking up on towers as well as for covering news. Alpha Media’s KXL(FM), Portland, Ore., has an agreement with Aerial Technology International to use drones for news coverage and promotional use and iHeartMedia’s KFI(AM), Los Angeles, said in March it would outfit its field reporters with drones.

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