Media zooms in on university’s drone class

The Motion Picture Association of America has been lobbying the FAA for access for years. Television viewers already are watching drone-recorded video, experts say, such as in shows like “Survivor,” filmed in other countries. Rumors began late last year that TMZ, the television tabloid gossip site, was seeking drones.

“While drones are, in fact, awesome,” TMZ responded, “it just ain’t true.” Mizzou’s journalism drone course — where the students practice with smaller toys that they call Baby Jayhawks because they crash all the time — is not the first. The University of Nebraska began teaching theirs last year.

“You are pioneers,” says Bill Allen, an assistant professor of science journalism at Columbia, where journalism ethics are drilled into the ground pilots along with federal aviation regulations. “You don’t want to blow it by flouting the FAA rules.” At another point, he said, “Years from now, I don’t want to hear about a reporter who crossed the line and then find out that he was one of ours.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee held drone hearings a few weeks ago, and the hot topic was privacy. More than 30 state legislatures are looking at new laws to regulate unmanned aerial systems, particularly those launched by government agencies but also by commercial businesses, the media and individuals.

To Missouri state Rep. Casey Guernsey, a family farmer in northwest Missouri, drones are a threat. “It’s very exciting to see how all of these applications can be used in the business of farming, especially in the state of Missouri,” he said. “But in terms of government surveillance, that’s a whole different ballgame. “An individual’s privacy is sacred and needs to be kept sacred. We can’t do too much to protect that.”

He proposed a bill, the “Preserving Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act,” in response to news last year about the Environmental Protection Agency’s aerial surveillance of cattle farms in Iowa and Nebraska. However, the EPA said its observations were made from piloted planes, not drones. The measure, which passed the House by 87-66 a week ago, would make it illegal to use drones for surveillance of individuals or property without consent, except for certain law enforcement purposes. The measure also restricts the use of drones by news organizations.

Sign up for our newsletter

Newsletter: Innovations in K12 Education
By submitting your information, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

"(Required)" indicates required fields