Drone technology was initially created to safely and discreetly gather information about an area, person, or thing by the CIA. These government drones can spy on any given target from far above sea level, usually untraceable to the human eye. With these practical features, drone technology naturally caught the media’s attention when introduced to the open market.
The emergence of civilian drones (figure 1) is quickly dismantling our traditional view of pen and paper journalism and turning it into a floating machine, quietly buzzing around its business. This evolution in news-gathering is occurring so rapidly, that any credible news media source has already fully implemented drone technology. What most technologies strive to achieve in years, drones did in matter of weeks, turning the media world upside down.
Today, media outlets not implementing drones to gather information are quickly written off as dinosaurs and left in the dust. Why would one stream rush hour traffic from a multi-million-dollar helicopter when you can toss a drone out of NBC’s window and do the same thing? The massive savings in cost and reduced liabilities aren’t the main reason why these companies are switching over (unheard of in the business world), in fact there are multiple reasons ahead of this. For starters, as mentioned before, if you don’t use drones you are a dinosaur. Period. The rest of the reasons all stem from the seemingly endless capabilities of drone technology to revolutionize the service being provided by the media. These journalists now have a new means to approach and cover a story, providing consumers with new angles (literally and figuratively) on the news as its occurring.
The New York Times was one of the first media groups to spearhead this approach, highlighting how drone technology is making this possible. Last October, they released a story on the Syrian Civil War’s destruction of Aleppo using a drone (figure 2). The drone’s footage documented the devastation in such a way that it produced feelings impossible to recreate by traditional journalism.
The footage evoked these strong emotions by showing us the sheer magnitude and volume of destruction that one could never document from the ground. Drones take the message traditional journalism complicates and serves it to you bluntly, enabling a raw, uncut understanding of the subject. To simplify, if The Times documented the destruction of Aleppo traditionally one would think, “Gosh darn, that city is destroyed” as opposed to, “Holy smokes, that whole city is literally destroyed” with the drone.
The key takeaway here is that drone technology greatly facilitates the interpretation of messages we are trying to send through the media. The point of human communication is to receive and interpret messages we send to each other, and drones greatly facilitate the interpretation of these messages. If this is true, then this isn’t just a media revolution but a
societal one as well. Imagine trying to explain to our privileged kids what it’s really like to be poor, to starve, to sleep on a floor, and to live in despair through a photograph? You can’t, but rather envision following a starving child going through his daily activities in real time with a drone? The enormous capability of drones to convey messages reduces the cultural boundaries between societies so that we can gain a better understanding of each other as humans. Isn’t this the greatest gift technology can give?
Brian Krzanich, the CEO of Intel once said, “We have visions of going from 100 to 1,000, over time.”His reasoning for saying this was to convince people that drones could entertain onlookers at sports events while also providing advertisement in popular areas. While this may be an effective business plan, there are some precautionary guidelines that need to be put in place to protect the privacy of Americans. Yes, drones may provide entertainment and advertisement opportunities, but at what cost?
The Federal Aviation Administration have said that they have six regulations for drone use; operators, flight, property, device’s, behavior, and consent. The FAA has also announced that anybody using a drone within three miles of a major sports stadium could face jail time or a hefty fine. This is an example of a regulation that deals with property. In other words, drone use in the media could potentially conflict with the FAA’s views on privacy on private properties. Another issue with drones in the media is the audio and video recording capabilities of drones. These capabilities have the ability to record people’s actions and conversations without gaining consent from them first. The behavior of drone use in the media should also be regulated due to the fact that celebrities could lose their right to privacy.
For example, if a high profile celebrity has a tall perimeter fence surrounding their property to separate themselves from the public, a member of the paparazzi could easily fly a drone over their property to obtain images and/or audio recordings of the celebrity. The reason why legal drone use in the media is impractical is because there is no systematic process to get consent or provide notice to people that may get filmed or recorded by drones.
After all of our research, we can conclude that the main reason behind why drone use should not be used in the media is simply because it is an easy way to invade the privacy of others; whether it is the privacy of a high profile celebrity or that of an average Joe who simply does not wish to be filmed and/or recorded.
Even though drone use opens up opportunities for the media to grow, the FAA needs to implement a systematic process or a strict set of rules that drone users must abide by in order to use their drones in the media.