March 13, 2014

New York Daily News

Drone-captured video and images of the Harlem explosion aftermath made for riveting viewing on the New York Daily News site Thursday.

The drone belongs to 45-year-old Brian Wilson, a business systems expert, the Daily News reported.

Wilson said he heard about the explosion from his roommate and immediately jumped in a cab with his flying camera and headed to the scene.

Police allowed Wilson to videotape the collapsed buildings with his DJI Phantom 2 quadcopter for 30 minutes before his battery ran down. And, at the end, police told him they’d prefer he not fly his drone any longer, he said.

Until the federal government allows news operations to take their own drone video, ordinary citizens like Wilson get to record birds’ eye-views of news events and pass them on to media outlets. As commercial entities, news organizations face possible sanctions from the FAA if they use drones.

Earlier this month, the FAA appealed a decision by an administrative law judge who ruled the agency cannot fine a man who flew a drone commercially. But experts say while the threat of fines may have abated, federal penalties remain a risk for any news organization.

There are risks for journalists as well. A Connecticut TV station suspended a photographer after he flew a drone over the scene of an accident. The photographer, who was off duty at the time, sued the Hartford police department for asking WFSB-TV to discipline him.

When the (Spokane, Wash.) Spokesman-Review published a drone video in January of the annual Polar Bear Plunge in Lake Coeur d’Alene, it sparked a Twitter exchange about its legality, with the photographer maintaining it fell in a “gray area.” The FAA subsequently responded: “There is no gray area.”

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