December 6, 2014

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: Opportunities, Barriers, and the Future of “Drone Journalism”

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly referred to as “drones,” have gained media attention over the last several years with much of the focus centering on their military uses and their emerging role in newsgathering. News organizations, journalists, and private citizens have employed UAVs to capture and share breaking news, to provide glimpses of natural disasters that would otherwise be too hazardous for journalists to obtain, and to offer unique perspectives that enrich news storytelling. At the same time, media scholars have emphasized the need to better understand the privacy and ethical concerns surrounding UAVs. Legal restrictions to and implications of their use have been relatively unexplored. Given that evolving rules and regulations put in place by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) may ground UAVs for journalistic purposes, it is important to understand what those legal barriers are and what they mean for the future of UAVs as tools for journalism. This paper advances by noting key benefits UAVs offer journalism before explicating the evolving rules and regulations of the FAA and how those are shaping the use of UAVs for journalism by private citizens, journalists, and news organizations.

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