The UNL Drone Journalism Lab
Waite thought about how helpful it would be if a reporter could pull a 4ft x 3ft Gatewing X100 or similar drone from the trunk of a news vehicle and launch it at the scene of a news event for a live aerial view. After more serious thought, the Professor approached the school’s Dean with a brand new idea. That’s when the UNL School of Journalism’s Drone Journalism Lab was born.
Professor Waite says there is something of a land rush among universities toward drones, each in a quest to become “Drone U.” At this time, university research is about the only entity that can receive FAA permission to test fly drones in potentially commercial applications.
The mission of UNL’s Drone Journalism Lab is to deal with philosophical, regulatory, safety and liability issues resulting from the journalistic use for what Professor Waite referred to as basically a “flying lawnmower,” with all the risks implied. A rogue drone, or one whose batteries simply ran out, could instantly become a bigger news story in a very unbecoming way.
Regardless of what name you choose to call it or whether you think it’s a good idea or not, commercial UAV drones are coming to the USA. The FAA has been in the process of reviewing with the intention of loosening UAV regulations for several years. It recently received a direct mandate from Congress under the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, demanding the skies to be open to commercial drones by 2015. Guess what the theme of NAB2015 is likely to be?
While broadcast TV news applications are obvious to us insiders, there are many other industries and professions anxious to embrace the benefits UAV technology offers. Among them are power transmission and pipe line inspections, crop field monitoring, paparazzi, realtors, sports and, of course, law enforcement. Pent-up demand is tremendous and growing. According to information I could find, DHS is interested, but isn’t necessarily trying to build a fleet of new drones. DHS has been quietly deploying decommissioned Predator drones for border patrol and other tasks for a several years. However, the commercialization of drones looms as large in the future for DHS drones as it is for anyone else relying on autonomous airborne hardware in crowded domestic airspace.