We stand on the precipice of a fully-fledged ‘Age of the Drone’, as unmanned aerial vehicles ‘trickle down’ from their military use and become tools for everyday tasks such as ‘drone journalism’.
Last November, drone journalism hit the big time after a Polish activist launched a small craft with four helicopter-like rotors called a quadrocopter. He flew the drone low over riot police lines to record a violent demonstration in Warsaw. The pictures were extraordinarily different from run-of-the-mill protest coverage.
Posted online, the images went viral. More significantly, this birds-eye view clip found its way onto the bulletins and web pages of mainstream media.
This recent emergence of drone journalism has attracted the attention of University of Nebraska Journalism academic Matt Waite. In November he founded the Drone Journalism Lab, a research project to determine the viability of remote airborne media.
“We have people who are not journalists doing things that look an awful lot like journalism, so it’s not hard to make the leap of imagination. First there was the Polish protests, then the Russian election protests,” he said.
Then a US activist near Dallas launched his UAV to take these pictures of an environmental violation, “a river of blood” flowing from a local meat packing plant.
For media players, drones’ low cost and the ability to deploy several at a time are the big attractions.