What journalists need to know about drones

Journalists have recently been covering drones — more formally known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV)  — from a variety of angles, including their uses in surveillance, agriculture and airstrikes in the Middle East.

A new law requires the Federal Aviation Administration to create regulations by 2015 for the use of drones in commercial airspace. Concerns around the privacy and safety of drones in commercial airspace provide rich stories for reporters, says Ellen Shearer, professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. The industry, she said, is estimated to be worth $89 billion in the next few years.

Shearer explains more in this Poynter video:

The Federal Aviation Administration limits civilian hobbyist drones such as the Parrot AR.Drone and the Burrito Bomber, which Shearer mentions, to below 400 feet and bans their commercial use. The military hasn’t fielded “land drones” such as BigDog yet because they are too noisy for stealthy operations and not autonomous enough.

For more information, replay a News University Webinar with Shearer. Use this code and get 25 percent off the cost of the Webinar 13WEBDS25.

Here are links to the sites Shearer mentioned in the video: American Civil Liberties Union | Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) | U.S. Government Accountability Office (U.S. GAO) | Congressional Research Service (Library of Congress)

Credits: “Burrito Bomber,” Patrick Dunnam/Darwin Aerospace | Medill National Security Journalism initiative | Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) | Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute | U.S. Navy | Wikimedia Commons | Doug Kline/PopCultureGeek.

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