US Authorities Permit Drones for Journalism, Starting With CNN

By Darren Orf on at

After months of studying drones as a news reporting tool, US news network CNN has struck a deal with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), to allow the unmanned aerial vehicles to be used for purposes of reporting and illustrating news.

But while CNN's own active efforts to bring drones into the newsroom started in June 2014, experimentation with drone journalism is almost as old as the hobby itself. News agencies like the Associated Press have used drones to cover huge disaster stories, and certain journalism schools integrated drones into their classes (until the FAA squashed that idea in 2013.) There's even a professional society of drone journalists.

Clearly an interest exists, but the authorities' tortoise-speed approach to UAV rule-making has left many either clamouring for permission, or led to them just doing it without any.

This new permission could change that. CNN's partnership with the agency will be a two-way street; the news organisation will pass along information to the administration to help "formulate a framework for various types of UAVs to be safely integrated into newsgathering operations," according to a CNN press release.

This kind of team-up is crucial if the United States wants to be at the forefront of drone innovation, and the FAA will need to sanction more of these kinds of developments. One potential outcome of being too slow to these new rules is that giants like Amazon and Google will simply just look outside US borders, where drone rules are more lax or better developed, which is pretty much everywhere else. That's great news for us in Europe, holding open arms to innovation, but not so for the Americans.

In December, Amazon openly said they were pursuing non-US testing facilities because of the FAA's cautious stance. These companies aren't likely to wait until 2017 and simply ignore the potential of drones until then. [CNN/Politico]