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These workshops may help photojournalists publish drone-shot images sooner

poytner drone classes 55058605 ml
Igor Akimov / 123RF
The FAA’s latest round of drone laws means even photojournalists need to be certified before they fly — and now a partnership between several groups from Google News Lab to DJI is going to help photojournalists get their drone wings.

The Poynter Institute, Google News Lab, the Drone Journalism Lab at the University of Nebraska, the National Press Photographers Association, and DJI unveiled on Monday a new training program designed to provide journalists the tools they need to safely use drones in their reporting. The Drone Journalism School will be held as a three-day, hands-on workshop, with four locations across the U.S., as well as online availability later this year through Poytner’s News University.

“Drones are purpose-built context machines. They can, in less time and at vastly reduced costs, give a viewer an understanding of the scale and scope of a story unlike anything else journalists have in the toolbox,” Drone Journalism Lab’s Matt Waite said. “Just getting a drone straight up 100 feet in the air has the power to change our understanding of how big, how far, how wide, how massive something is. And it can be done safely and for very little cost.”

Along with covering topics such as drone safety, the workshops will also provide journalists with the information to study for the FAA exam in order to obtain a permit to operate a UAV commercially. “As a certified drone pilot myself, I know how difficult the exam can be for people who have no other pilot training,” said Al Tompkins, the Poynter organizer for the workshops. “Our goal is not to make you ‘test ready’ but to show you what will be on the exam and to give you the fundamental knowledge you will need to study for the test.”

Hands-on flight training will also be a part of the workshop, sponsored by drone manufacturer DJI. A National Press Association Lawyer, Mickey H. Osterreicher, will also be on hand to discuss the legal side of drone flight, helping potential pilots to navigate not only federal drone regulations, but local ordinances as well.

The workshops will be held at the University of Georgia Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication from March 17 to March 19, Syracuse University Newhouse School of Public Communications from April 21 to April 23, University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication from June 16 to June 18, and the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication in Portland from August 18 to August 20. The workshop registration is $295, with scholarships available to members of a number of different journalism organizations.

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