(Source: The Guardian)
The 2016 presidential election could go down as the first in US history to be captured by drones, after federal regulators on Wednesday gave CNN the green light to begin testing unmanned planes as news-gathering tools in urban areas.
The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) announced that it had entered into a new partnership with the cable channel under which CNN will be allowed to explore how drones can be safely used for news photography in populated areas. The federal agency’s administrator, Michael Huerta, told a conference of drone enthusiasts in Atlanta that the initiative would be a way to “help us anticipate and address the needs of the evolving UAS [unmanned aircraft systems] industry”.
The concession opens the door to what is expected eventually to grow into vast demand for drones within the news business, with the coverage of presidential elections top of the TV networks’ and cable channels’ wish-lists. Drone experts predicted that with the gathering pace of change within the industry, and with the FAA showing signs that it is prepared to take a more relaxed approach to allowing unmanned planes into the national airspace, the devices are likely to be unleashed in time for 2016, which would render them a striking new feature of next year’s race for the White House.
Michael Drobac, executive director of the Small UAV Coalition whose members include Amazon Prime Air, Google and GoPro, said he was convinced that next year would be the first US presidential election captured by drone. “We are entering an enormous presidential election cycle with very high-profile candidates going up against each other. Drones offer the chance to capture the scale and energy of campaign rallies far more effectively than helicopters have done before,” he said.
CNN was awarded initial permission by the FAA to begin testing drones in January, but at that time the cable channel was banned from flying its prototype aircraft over anybody not directly associated with its flying missions. That prohibition, applied by the federal regulators to all commercial operators, effectively confined the testing to unpopulated rural areas.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com