The Federal Aviation Administration’s widespread ban on the commercial use of drones has upset many businesses keen to exploit the technology, among them news outlets that see it as an effective and low-cost option for capturing engaging imagery for TV reports.
That all looks set to change, however, as CNN announced Monday it’s struck a deal with the FAA to “advance efforts” to integrate unmanned aerial vehicle (UAVs) into the newsgathering process.
CNN senior vice president David Vigilante said the aim was to “get beyond hobby-grade equipment and to establish what options are available and workable to produce high quality video journalism using various types of UAVs and camera setups.”
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Aware of the frustration currently felt by other businesses looking to make use of UAVs in their work, Vigilante added that he hoped CNN’s discussions with the FAA would “contribute to the development of a vibrant ecosystem where operators of various types and sizes can safely operate in the US airspace.”
The FAA has been accused of moving too slowly in drafting regulations and offering licenses for the use of drones in a commercial setting. Up to now, only a few industries have been granted permission to use the technology, among them a number of movie production companies, though restrictions are tight. They must, for example, give several days notice to the FAA, a requirement that would obviously prove unworkable for a news channel covering breaking stories.
While CNN’s announcement suggests the situation regarding the commercial use of drones is moving in the right direction, it could still be at least a year before we see any reports showing a drone’s-eye views of news events.
The FAA’s apparent slow reaction to the fast-developing technology has already seen some firms move part of their drone research projects overseas. Take Amazon, for example. A report late last year suggested the e-commerce giant is gearing up to open a huge R&D base in the UK. The site, which is likely to be built in Cambridge, will reportedly focus mainly on developing and testing its Prime Air drone, which the company hopes will one day deliver items to customers living close to its fulfillment centers.