By Don Corrigan (column from the Webster-Kirkwood Times)
My friend Bill Allen at Mizzou J-School offers a course in using drones for news coverage, but use of flying drones to gather information is raising questions at every level.
Would this area welcome Times Drones flying over head for photos of traffic accidents, football games, river flooding or community celebrations? Better yet, how would local residents feel about a descendant of “Crash Corrigan” manning the controls of an overhead news drone?
This technology for news seems to involve an idea whose time has come. I recently was a party to an Internet discussion with the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors (ISWNE) on the topic of where to find an affordable news drone and how to use them for reporting.
The Yuneec Q500+ seems to be a current favorite at around $1,100. It comes with its own integrated HD camera that produces both excellent video and stills. The Yuneec will not do well in the strong winds associated with spring storms in Missouri.
I am not sure I’m quite ready for a Yuneec. A friend of mine with the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ), is definitely not ready for news drones. Environmentalist Wendell Berry got some ink recently when he wrote a piece on the right kind of shotgun to bring down a drone.
When Berry isn’t writing or being an environmental activist, he farms. He declared that he is concerned about rights of property and personal privacy – and would not hesitate to take out a drone over his farm.
I know some folks who fly the friendly skies for their work. They also aren’t so happy about the increasing number of drones in the sky. They point to some near-misses between passenger planes and drones around our airports. They say it’s only a matter of time before a deadly collision and an FAA crackdown on drones.
Drones are also on the radar screen now for serious movie buffs. “Eye in the Sky” is about Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) who leads a drone attack mission against terrorists in a safe house in Kenya. Powell learns the group plans to carry out a suicide attack, but her mission gets very complicated when a nine-year-old girl enters the drone kill zone.
A few faithful readers may recall when I went to Bosnia in 1997 to cover some local kids in the military in Tuzla and other exotic locations. I witnessed the first use of drones for reconnaissance and potential combat situations. I remember the drone pilots complaining they did not get the same pay as regular combat pilots.
A fascinating article in January’s Wired magazine covers this early use of military drones to where we are now with reliance on Predators in U.S. combat. Taking out the enemy with armed drones, rather than with boots on the ground, has become the preferred method of engagement.
I apologize for wandering so far from my original topic. So, are drones just a fact of life? Is it time to find a hangar for the Times news drone?