BreakThru News, Ep. 3: Drone Journalism


By Charlotte Thun-Hohenstein


Drones have come to prominence in American national discourse through their use in the military, which currently dominates the industry. However, their civilian commercial applications may soon eclipse those in warfare, as within ten years 80 percent of drone usage may be for agriculture.

One such field looking to benefit from this new technology is journalism. For aerial photography, drones are a boon. Not only is a $1000 price tag far friendlier than the millions of dollars required to operate a helicopter, but the absence of a pilot allows coverage of otherwise dangerous situations. We are already seeing drones used in this way abroad, from coverage of the Olympics to reporting on natural disasters in the Philippines.

Concerns about privacy, however, have hamstrung journalistic ventures at home in the US. The Federal Aviation Association (FAA) banned all commercial usage of drones in 2007 until they can be officially incorporated into airspace by 2015 according to FAA guidelines. Existing programs for drone journalism, such as the Missouri Drone Journalism Program, have been asked to cease their activities until permits are obtained. And recent litigation demonstrates the confusion over what constitutes a threat, with prosecutions targeting hobbyist pilots of camera-bearing model airplanes.

On this episode of BreakThru News, Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel to the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) and award-winning photojournalist, discusses the ongoing struggle between drone technology and lawmakers in trying to find the right balance for the protection of privacy. Matthew Schroyer, founder of and the Professional Society for Drone Journalists (PSDJ), also joins the conversation to talk about what drones might mean for the future of journalism, not only facilitating investigative and environmental missions, but even humanitarian ones where atrocities threaten a society.

Video Credits:
Host, Writer – Charlotte Thun-Hohenstein
Video Editor – Meredith Schneider
Script Supervisor – Matthew DeMello
Research – Tanya Silverman
Social Media – Molly Freeman