After months of studying drones as a news reporting tool, CNN just struck a deal with the US Federal Aviation Administration today, meaning lots of eye-in-the-sky Wolf Blitzer segments are forthcoming.
But while CNN's own active efforts to bring drones into the newsroom started June 2014, experimentation with drone journalism is almost as old as the hobby itself. News agencies like the Associated Press have used drones to cover huge disaster stories, and journalism schools, such as the University of Missouri and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, integrated drones into their classes (until the FAA squashed that idea in 2013.) There's even a professional society of drone journalists, and several news outlets have fought the FAA on its drone kibosh saying it infringes on the first amendment.
Clearly an interest exists, but the FAA's tortoise-speed approach to UAV rule-making has left many either clamoring for permission or just doing it without any.
This could change that. CNN's partnership with the agency will be a two-way street; the news organisation will pass along info to the administration to help "formulate a framework for various types of UAVs to be safely integrated into newsgathering operations," according to a CNN press release.
This kind of team-up is crucial to drone innovation continuing in the United States. Big companies with the $US$US$US to invest can work with the FAA on drone use in their respective fields, hopefully(!) to the benefit of the rest of the emerging industry. Because one of the big fears of being too slow to these new rules is that giants like Amazon and Google will simply just look outside U.S. borders, where drone rules are more lax or better developed, which is pretty much everywhere else. In December, Amazon openly said they were pursuing non-US testing facilities because of the FAA's cautious stance. These companies aren't likely to wait until 2017 and simply ignore the potential of drones until then. [CNN/Politico]