Can drones replace news helicopters?

After watching a very interesting piece about drones on 60 Minutes, I sent out this tweet:

While my focus was on smaller television markets with limited resources, my interest has shifted a bit in light of the tragic events at Seattle ABC affiliate KOMO. Chopper pilot Gary Fitzner and photographer Bill Strothman were killed in a crash while leaving the facility where the station's helicopter was stored, mere yards from the city's iconic Space Needle.

So I've been thinking: could drones be used as an economical tool for gathering news and make for a safer alternative? I envision these tiny, airborne devices being utilized by television stations to get aerial footage for breaking news, even for stations in larger markets who cannot (or will not) fork over millions of dollars to purchase or lease a chopper or pay for its expensive fuel. Plus, helicopters must be stored in specific places; it's not like a car that can be parked in the driveway after breaking news coverage is over.

With 5G bandwidth becoming common across America, drones could also be used anywhere near a 4G/5G tower, eliminating the need to tune into a signal on what can often be an unreliable microwave spectrum. This would also allow multiple drones to operate simultaneously within the same general area.

My vision of initial operation goes like this: a large fire has broken out in a residential area during a wildfire. Crews cannot get to the fire due to safety issues. A news crew drives as close to the fire as safely allowed. The drone is deployed. With someone trained to remotely operate the drone as a crew member guiding it along, the cellular spectrum can be used to transmit a live HD grade signal back to the station. The drone costs a fraction of a helicopter, so if it's damaged, it's no big deal, especially in situations where lives are in the balance. Plus, it's less intrusive than a helicopter, therefore, it can access more areas without jeopardizing safety.

The use of drones could also level the playing field in TV news, making exclusive claims to owning helicopters a thing of the past. As I stated previously, choppers use a lot of fuel. And it ain't cheap.

But we;re years away from this. Regulations must be put into place. I can imagine drones would be governed the same way aircraft is today.

So, will drones replace news helicopters? Not anytime soon. Just as the internet has not replaced TV news but has influenced it to change, drones will add another alternative and dimension to the tools television stations will have at their disposal to provide quality news coverage.

Cheers, all.

1 comment:

  1. I like the safety aspect of using these drones. Most people don't realize that reporters often expose thenselves to danger to get the coverage necessary. Other areas this could be useful in would be in media coverage of wars or conflicts, to observe areas where humanitarian violations are rumored to be perpetrated, as well as other areas where the reporter or journalist's life may be put in peril. All in all a very novel idea.