Drone Journalism: Newsgathering applications of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in covering conflict, civil unrest and disaster.

ntroductor! "aper # Januar! $%&'

(! )ar* +orcoran nternational +orrespondent # Australian (roadcasting +orporation

Author,s Note This report focuses on the potential use of unmanned aircraft technology on hazardous news gathering assignments, classed in three broad categories;
A. )a-or conflict; the military ‘embed’ and the implications of deploying media drones

over civil communities during conflict.
B. +ivil unrest. ‘Drone journalism’ in a hostile urban environment. C. Disaster coverage. loods, fires, earth!ua"es, where a small ‘eye in the s"y’ can

ma"e a difference. This is not a comple# policy or technical document, but an introductory paper written as a primer for media e#ecutives, correspondents and news production teams. This paper does not specifically e#amine the comple# range of domestic safety and privacy issues that need to be resolved before ‘drone journalism’ can become a reality within $ustralia. These issues are being e#plored by the author in another study, for inclusion in a research degree thesis at the %niversity of Technology, &ydney. The report features e#pert analysis from 'ichael (o#, formerly a senior $)(*T+ cameraman with e#tensive conflict newsgathering e#perience and now $)(*T+ $cting ,roduction -esources 'anager .&/, responsible for the assessment and ac!uisition of new


newsgathering technology and; retired 0ieutenant (olonel ,hilip &winsburg, who was instrumental in the introduction of the small ‘tactical %$+’ surveillance capability for the $ustralian Defence orce in 1ra! and $fghanistan and now wor"s in the commercial sector as managing director of %nmanned &ystems $ustralia. The paper also draws on research from ‘Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems and Journalism’, 2#ford %niversity, 3une 4567, a report co*authored with Dr David 8oldberg and ,rofessor -obert ,icard, -euters 1nstitute for the &tudy of 3ournalism, Department of ,olitics and 1nternational -elations, 2#ford %niversity 98oldberg, (orcoran : ,icard 4567;. $lso included are the author’s own personal observations from 6< years wor"ing as a reporter and producer for $)(*T+’s Foreign Correspondent program in numerous conflict and disaster zones 9$)( 4567b;.

ntroduction There’s nothing !uite li"e the sensation of being stal"ed by a drone. -eal or imagined, it’s a very personal e#perience. The author’s first drone or %nmanned $erial +ehicle 9%$+; encounter came amid the bomb* ravaged apartment bloc"s of south )eirut in 455= while reporting for $)(*T+ $ustralia’s Foreign Correspondent program. 1srael and >ezbollah were loc"ed in a 7? day war and 1sraeli military drones were an omnipresent force over 0ebanon, with 45 %$+s in the s"ies at any one time 90ambeth 4566;. rom an unseen point high in the s"y emanated a faint, distant whine@ part lawnmower, part chainsaw. There was a hint of panic as the otherwise disciplined >ezbollah gunmen; our escorts as we filmed the rubble of their &outh )eirut stronghold, suddenly vanished, leaving us alone and very e#posed. Aven without firing a shot, the drone is the perfect weapon of intimidation. The 1sraeli fi#ed*wing %$+ above us that day carried no weapons, but high*resolution cameras and sensors, hunting targets for fighter aircraft flying circuits out above the 'editerranean &ea, sitting on a deadly, supersonic cab ran". 1 imagined a bored young 1sraeli soldier of the ,lay&tation generation slumped over a console in a dar"ened corner hundreds of "ilometres away, peering into the pi#elated image of the live feed, determining if we were carrying cameras or missile launchers. /ere we to be obliterated or ignoredB Than"fully the latter. The all*seeing drone buzzed off, the militiamen reappeared, and we got on with our job. >ezbollah officials boasted that they too had drones; a claim confirmed when 1srael shot down two 1ranian*supplied %$+s during the war, while a third crashed in 0ebanon. This was the first time in history a non*state entity had launched drones in a conflict. $nother highly relevant precedent had been set a year earlier in $pril 455<, when a >ezbollah %$+


successfully penetrated 1sraeli airspace and returned with on*board video of the mission, which was subse!uently posted on a >ezbollah website 9&hadid 455=;. &tanding in the rubble*strewn )eirut street 1 had a Aure"a moment, that with the benefit of several years hindsight, now appears blindingly obvious@ 1f combatants were able to deploy these ‘eyes in the s"y’, could media adopt this technology for news gathering, both improving the coverage and lowering our e#posure to ris" in a chaotic, highly dangerous environmentB The answer in 455= was no. The cost of drones designed for military use was prohibitive and their large size and comple#ity made them impractical for media teams to deploy on assignments such as the 1sraelC>ezbollah /ar. )ut seven years on, the concept of drone journalism in hostile environments is finally ta"ing off 9(orcoran 4564b;.

.he /esearch 0uestions The controversial deployment of drones as a new form of remote warfare has been e#tensively analysed, but what of the concept of journalists deploying the technology on high*ris" assignments such as wars, civil unrest and natural disastersB (an drones be deployed by journalists to supplement newsgathering where ground*based access is deemed too hazardousB 1s the small drone suitable for use as a safety or reconnaissance tool by news teams operating in high*threat environments such as $fghanistanB (an journalists e#ploit the technology as soldiers do, to scout ahead for insurgents planting improvised e#plosive devices or provide warning of imminent attac"B /hat potential cultural and privacy issues are raised by media drone operations in such an environmentB /hat are the potential benefits of deploying a drone for disaster coverageB ‘The use of aerial platforms for newsgathering is not new. 1n the 6Dth century intrepid correspondents and photographers ascended in hot air balloons to cover the $merican (ivil /ar and other major events. 1n the mid*45th century media organisations began using fi#ed wing aircraft and later helicopters to cover wars, fires, protests, and a myriad of other high ris" assignments’ 98oldberg, (orcoran : ,icard 4567;. Deploying drones for newsgathering during conflict is a comple# and difficult proposition, but one that demands thorough e#amination given the increasing numbers of media wor"ers "illed and injured covering conflict. $ccording to the 1nternational ederation of 3ournalists 91 3;, in the past 45 years more than 4,555 journalists and media staff were "illed in the line of duty. 1n 4564, 646 wor"ers from all sectors of the media industry lost their lives in violent incidents; 77 &yrian and international media were "illed covering &yria’s civil war. 6E died in &omalia, 65 in ,a"istan 91 3 4567b;.


(ac*ground 1 nternational %nmanned $erial +ehicles 9%$+s; or drones will soon be an increasingly common sight in our s"ies and become an indispensable item in the news crews’ road case or the freelancer’s bac"pac". 3ournalists have been among the pioneers of civilian adaptation of this technology which offers many compelling advantages for news gathering; however the introduction of drone journalism must be carefully balanced with the critical issues of air safety and privacy. 8overnment regulators in $ustralia, the %& and elsewhere continue to wrestle with the comple#ities of controlling the technology. 1n the %&, deadlines for the greater integration of %$+s in civil airspace have come and gone. The ta"e home message@ 1t is much harder than it loo"s. &o, why has the concept of ‘drone journalism’ emerged nowB Two "ey factors have converged to drive the domestic drone boom; $s the %nited &tates wound down its ground based interventions in 1ra! and $fghanistan spending on military drone projects has been reduced. ‘$merican aerospace manufacturers, who e#clusively supplied drones to the %& military responded to these cutbac"s by wor"ing to create a lucrative new civilian mar"et’ 9(hiles 4567; 8oldberg, (orcoran : ,icard 4567; . 1n 4564, the %& (ongress responded to %$+ industry lobbying by overturning a domestic ban on civil and commercial %$+s, directing the ederal $viation $dministration to develop a plan to integrate civil drones in the national airspace by 456<. The $$ estimated 75,555 civil and commercial %$+s could be flying by 4575 9 $$ 4565;. 1n 'arch 4567, $%+&1 forecast a combined militaryCcivil global %$+ mar"et of %&F6?5 billion, generated over ten years 9$%+&1 brief, 'elbourne ebruary 4567;. ‘>ow the %nited &tates manages its domestic drone roll out is highly relevant to the rest of the world as the %& aerospace industry dominates the sector, generating two thirds of global production and development. 'anufacturers in Aurope, (hina and many other countries have introduced remotely piloted aircraft of their own to compete for shares of the civilian mar"et. /hile the $mericans and ‘Auropeans offered a highly engineered product for the emerging media mar"et, it is (hina with its vast manufacturing base, cheap labour and economies of scale that has the potential to dominate this sector. 1n 4567 many small (hinese %$+s already 9sold; for about 4<*<5G of the price of Auropean and $merican competitors, although there was intense debate over the !uality of the (hinese product’ 98oldberg, (orcoran : ,icard 4567;. These classic mar"et*driven policies have converged with another factor, the rise of cheap, highly capable consumer electronics, championed by those now see"ing to ‘democratise technology’. ‘The suits of corporate $merica now find themselves sharing airspace with the jeans and t* shirts of the ‘personal drone’ movement. (hris $nderson is a self*declared ‘drone evangelist’. $ physicist*turned*journalist, $nderson was >ong Hong and .ew Ior" correspondent for The Economist, then 94556*64; editor*in*chief of influential technology magazine Wired’98oldberg, (orcoran : ,icard 4567;. 1n 4564 $nderson told $)(*T+ that@

JThan"s to &martphones, and /ii controllers and other consumer electronics, we have all the necessary elements to create a drone. &ensors, wireless, 8,&, processors, cameras, everything that’s the &martphone revolution has basically made the technologies cheap and available and this has just happened over the past four or five yearsK 9(orcoran 4564b;.

‘This technological emergence led to the creation of online ‘personal drone’ communities, dedicated to open*source drone research and development. 'any of these hobby forums have evolved into commercial businesses, as crowd sourcing accelerates the already dynamic pace of innovation. 1n 455L, $nderson founded the online group D1I Drones, which 9in 4567; boasted more than 7=,555 members worldwide. +olunteering their e#pertise online were 1T e#perts from 8oogle, $pple, 1)', ban"ers in 3apan, advertising agents in )razil, hobbyists from $ustralia, grocery store managers in the %&. $nderson said@
J1 was blown away by what people in our community were doing with sensors from mobile phones and chips that cost less than a cup of coffee. eature by feature, they were matching M or besting M aerospace electronics that had cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars just a decade earlier. 1t felt li"e the future of aviationN $utopilot electronics loo" just li"e smartphone electronics, simply running different software. The technical and economic advantages of coat*tailing on the economies of scale of the trillion*dollar mobile*phone industry are astoundingK 9$nderson 4564;.

‘$nderson claimed to have accidently "ic"*started the domestic drone boom in the %nited &tates and, while some disputed his assertion, $nderson is a highly influential figure in the emerging ‘personal drone’ movement. 1n late 4564 $nderson resigned from Wired to focus on his drone manufacturing start*up 7D -obotics, 9by 4567; the company had e#panded from building %&F6L< open source drone autopilots to manufacturing more than 6,555 small multi*rotor and fi#ed wing drones and autopilots a month, of which half were sold in the %nited &tates. $nderson aimed to sell his drones for %&F<55 each 98oldberg, (orcoran : ,icard 4567;.
JToday there’re more drones out there being flown by hobbyists than there are by the militaryNmilitary*grade technology at toy pricesK 9(orcoran 4564b;.

$nd it is this global ‘,ersonal Drone’ movement, rather than the established defence* aerospace industry that may initially offer the most affordable and immediate options for news gathering in hazardous locations. (ac*ground1 Australia $ustralia has an international reputation for innovation and application of civil %$+ technology, introducing the world’s first civil %$+ operating regulations in 4554 9($&$ 4554;. )y 4567, the (ivil $viation &afety $uthority 9($&$; ac"nowledged that the phenomenal speed of technological evolution and application had rendered those regulations largely obsolete, and the rapid proliferation of drone technology meant that ($&$ was largely ineffective in enforcing the rules 9(orcoran 4567;. ($&$ announced that new regulations on %$+ operation and certification were being drafted to better reflect realities; a new weight based classification system would, at one end of the scale, effectively de*regulate the smallest 4"g category, while the largest craft would be controlled by regulations comparable to those governing the operation of manned aircraft. $s the majority of potential news*gathering tas"s could be underta"en by the smaller craft, the regulations, when enacted, would have far reaching conse!uences for drone journalism 9(orcoran 4567;. $s with the %&, deadlines for rolling out this ambitious restructure have come and gone as ($&$


officials wrestle with the regulatory comple#ities of a technology that arcs from home*made or hobby shop toys through to multi*million dollar military intelligence gathering platforms. )y December 4567, there were == ($&$*approved commercial %$+ operators in $ustralia 9up from 6? in 4564;, specialising in aerial mapping and mine surveying, power line inspection, aerospace research, agricultural research, real estate photography, aerial filming of sports events. .o media organisations had approval to operate drones in $ustralia; but several had hired ($&$*approved operators for aerial filming, in much the same way that freelance news camera crews were engaged for assignments. (urrent ($&$ restrictions on operating in high density urban populations i.e. filming directly over people, effectively prohibited newsgathering, with most media assignments more accurately described as current affairs or documentary film*ma"ing, re!uiring pre*planning and conducted in a controlled environment. /hile restrictions were maintained on commercial %$+ activity, there was a rapid proliferation of cheap, small high*performance hobby craft, with enthusiasts launching craft, defined as 'odel $ircraft 9'$; that matched and often e#ceeded the capabilities of approved commercial %$+ operators. '$ flyers were not re!uired to undergo any form of certification or airworthiness process and were permitted to fly on the condition they operated under ?55 feet, in daylight, within line of sight, and well clear of airports and people and did not fly for profit or reward M a restriction that included newsgathering. These rules appeared to be increasingly ignored, with ($&$ publicly ac"nowledging that it was unable to effectively police the growing numbers of illegal flyers 9($&$ 4554, 4567a, 4567b, 4567c; (orcoran 4567;. 1n 4567, $ustralian media organisations had already incrementally M and legally * adopted drone technology. $)(*T+’s Four Corners engaged a ($&$ approved operator to film se!uences for a &eptember 4567 report n !oogle We Trust which e#amined social media technology and privacy, and in 3anuary 4567 a member of the public provided ‘amateur’ drone imagery of the Tasmanian )ushfires aftermath for the $)( Tasmania’s Lpm .ews bulletin 98ould 4567; /ood 4567;. 1n 3anuary 456?, $)(*T+ &port and Avents contracted a ($&$*approved operator to fly a multi*rotor craft over the $ustralia Day lag -aising (eremony in (anberra, providing aerial shots of the $)(’s live national broadcast of the event. The drone camera was integral to the multi*camera coverage. This was a significant ‘proof of concept’, underscoring the $)(’s confidence in both the reliability of the technology for an important national 2), and also safety@ as the craft was operating within 75 metres of a large audience of +1,s including the ,rime 'inister and 8overnor 8eneral. $)( Avents A#ecutive ,roducer David &pencer said;
J/hilst a lot of what we wanted could have been achieved by a helicopter the noise and visual impact would have been completely unacceptable for the program M let alone the costN The result was an e#ponential leap in the loo" and visual impact for the program. $ %$+ was the only option for the shots we wanted. ,rior to the availability of %$+’s with live broadcast !uality lin"s, we could only dream of getting these shotsO. 9/aite 456?;.

The ))( and (.. also launched %$+s on international news and current affairs assignments, while $ustralian commercial T+ .etwor"s &even and .ine, facing restrictions domestically also began deploying small drones overseas. $ &even .etwor" video journalist won the 4567 /al"ley $ward for (amerawor" for a series of reports that included compelling


drone imagery of the perils of the beach ship*brea"ing industry in )angladesh. 9-ussell 4567;.

‘8raveyard for 8iants’ * screenshot. 1mage &ource@ Sunday "ight#$igh Alpha %edia. Two major advantages offered by drones were convenience and cost, particularly when compared to news helicopters operating costs in an urban environment. $ small multi*rotor, depending on configuration and fitted capability, costs between $F6,555 * F45,555. )y comparison, the capital ac!uisition cost of a news helicopter is about $F7.<'. &imilarly, hourly operating costs of a small ($&$*approved, professionally piloted %$+ range around $F755*F<55, compared to $F4,555 an hour for a manned news helicopter 9$uthor presentation to the &rone Po'er Conference, (anberra, 3uly 4567;. >owever, ‘current %$+ technology still lac"ed that human element, what pilots call the Eye(all %ar) * This is the ability of a news helicopter pilot and media crew to observe and instantly react to a safety threat, or to anticipate a brea"ing development on a story that is unfolding beyond the narrow field of view of the camera. >elicopters also have an additional logistical capability lac"ing in %$+s; the ability to land in inaccessible locations and drop off e!uipment and news teams, or to immediately rescue individuals in distress’ 98oldberg, (orcoran : ,icard 4567;. .he Definition Dogfight /hat e#actly is a droneB 1t is a deceptively simple !uestion with a highly contentious answer that re!uires e#amination before e#ploring the comple#ities and potential applications of ‘drone journalism’ in hazardous environments. The ‘drone’ of the 4? hour news cycle invo"es images of menacingly*named Predators and Reapers prowling the s"ies of $fghanistan and ,a"istan, launching missile stri"es, inflicting indiscriminate civilian casualties, triggering a surge of international anger over the ethics and legality of this new form of warfare. )ut the same label also describes a small, flying >D camera*e!uipped toy; the Parrot AR &rone, just $F7<5 from the local hobby shop. 'ore than <55,555 AR &rones have been sold worldwide since the wheelie*bin lid sized craft first too" to suburban s"ies in 4565 9'Pchaly 4564; 'ortimer 4567; ,arrot 4567;.


‘1f the job is too dirty, dull or dangerous, get a %$+ to do it’, has become the mantra of the aerospace industry lobby. $ curious ‘definition dogfight’ has developed over the terminology used to describe this technology. This name game underscores a battle for public opinion that will ultimately influence where, when and how these ‘eyes in the s"y’ may be used in a myriad of potential civil applications@ from the upbeat, such as scientific research, agriculture, mine surveys, and beach patrols, to the far more contentious, li"e newsgathering, police wor" and broad area surveillance. &o whatQs in a nameB Decades ago, a drone was originally defined as a pilotless, radio* controlled military target*towing aircraft. Today ‘drone’ is the popular description for any craft that flies without a pilot at the controls, whether it is controlled directly by an operator on the ground or is capable of autonomous or automated flight with no direct human intervention. or most journalists, the technological marvel now flying into the realm of newsgathering possibilities is simply a ‘drone’. >owever, aviation professionals and government regulators have an almost visceral opposition to the drone word, preferring a comple# array of more technically precise terminology@ There is %$+ 9%nmanned $erial +ehicle;, also %$& 9%nmanned $erial &ystem;, which is a %$+, plus the ground*based control systems.
• •

'any military forces, including those of the %H, %& and $ustralia, insist on using the terms -,$ 9-emotely ,iloted $ircraft; and -,$& 9-emotely ,iloted $ircraft &ystem;. 'ilitary pilots hate the drone word because they feel it diminishes their e#pertise and direct involvement in controlling the craft in the air. $s a -oyal $ustralian $ir orce -,$ unit commander freshly returned from $fghanistan said last year@ O,eople li"e to see the word QpilotQ in thereO 9(orcoran 4564c;.

1nternational and national civil aviation regulators M $ustralia’s ($&$ included * also canQt !uite settle on a label. /hat started as a %$+, became a %$&, and now -,$C-,$& has been added to the civilian le#icon, at the direction of the 1nternational (ivil $viation 2rganisation 91($2;. ($&$ has adopted -,$C-,$& as the official bureaucratic descriptor.

1n addition, there is a growing array of subcategories that for the uninitiated can appear as a bewildering alphabet soup of T0-’s 9Three 0etter $cronyms;. This debate is about more than a ‘train*spotting’ fi#ation with arcane terminology. 1t underscores a deep*seated fear by governments and the aerospace industry, in $ustralia, the %& and elsewhere, over the emotionally charged connotations of the drone label The aerospace industry, through government lobbying in the %nited &tates and $ustralia, has helped stimulate the growing civil mar"et. 1n 4567, industry was frustrated in attempts to see" a smooth, politically*trouble free transition of the technology to civil s"ies. $erospace manufacturers were ban"ing on the civilian mar"et eclipsing military demand with global %$+Cdrone e#penditure is forecast to e#ceed F%&ED billion in the ne#t decade. This lucrative future was threatened by an image problem. The ‘drone’ had become embedded in the zeitgeist and largely due to military operations in the 'iddle Aast and &outh $sia, the connotations are overwhelmingly negative. Despite a rebranding campaign


launched by industry lobby group $%+&1, both industry and regulators were losing the definition dogfight. 2ne senior ($&$ official tas"ed with integrating the technology in civil s"ies told an aviation conference that he abhorred the drone label Jbecause drones "ill peopleK, a statement unli"ely to endear him to military colleagues 9(orcoran 4564c;. The QD wordQ has increasingly dominated public discourse, from political debate 9$merica’s ,resident refers to drones;, %& (ongressional reporting, and academic research, through to cover stories in influential specialist publications and global media outlets such as Time magazine. 1t is the author’s view that if this technology is to be successfully demilitarised, de*mystified and widely deployed on a range of peaceful, civil applications * including news gathering *valid privacy concerns need to be addressed and safe e#amples of the many applications need to be demonstrated. 2nly then will public acceptance follow, regardless of what label is used. 1n the interests of clarity this paper uses two terms; the collo!uial ‘drone’ label and what was in 4567, still the most popular industry description, %$+.

2ic*ing .he .!res # 3our 4road categories of drones suita4le for newsgathering %$+ capabilities are seemingly only limited by budget and imagination. The largest %$+ flying operationally in 4567 was the %&F455' %& $ir orce .orthrop 8rumman -R*? 8lobal >aw". /ith the wingspan of a L7L airliner, this unarmed intelligence gatherer can soar to =<,555 feet as it crosses the globe on non*stop 7< hour missions. 8lobal >aw" is the ultimate %$+ camera platform. /hile e#act capabilities remain secret, we do "now it can film targets in .orth Horea, obli!uely, from a distance of 6?5 "ilometres 9(orcoran 4564a;. )ut the vast cost and comple#ity of the unmanned aircraft M which is served by a ?< member technical ground crew M means it will remain a capability editors and news directors can only dream of. Ta"ing to the s"ies in 4567 were ‘hundreds of different types of small, cheap multi*rotor and fi#ed wing %$+s that resembled radio*controlled model aircraft. The toyli"e appearances were deceptive as these craft concealed impressive capabilities; automated flight, 8,& guidance, live video streaming cameras 9connected to irst ,erson +iew ,+ goggles, enabling the craft to be flown via camera, out of sight, over the horizon;, all sold in a compact flying pac"age, available online in components or assembled, or from the local hobby shop for the price of a smart phone’ 98oldberg, (orcoran : ,icard 4567;. .ews organisations considering adding drones to their array of technologies were confronted by a bewildering array of options. 1n .orth $merica alone, there were 6?= small %$+ models weighing less than 66.4"g, being produced by =D companies. This figure e#cluded manufacturers of hundreds of custom*built platforms and the ‘personal drone’ hobbyist movement 9$%+&1 chairman ,eter )ale, $valon 1nternational $ir &how, 4= ebruary 4567;.


1n 4564*67 $)(*T+’s Foreign Correspondent program e#plored the booming international drone bazaar and defined four categories of %$+ suitable for news gathering tas"s. These groupings broadly reflected the new category system proposed by $ustralia’s ($&$ 9(orcoran 4564b; (orcoran 4564d, 4567;.

1. &mall, helicopter*li"e ‘multi*rotors’ weighing less than 4"g, on*board /i i*controlled

by smart phone or tablet device. (heap $FL55*F6,<55. Aasy to operate with a range of a few hundred metres. J8o ,ro’ standard camera !uality. &uitable as a ‘bac" pac"’ option where immediacy ta"es precedence over picture !uality.

D81 Phantom with 8o*,ro 1mage &ource@ D81

2. 0arger multi*rotor, 4*L"g, capable of lifting heavier, broadcast !uality >D live

streaming cameras. Typically an operating radius of about 4,555m, with ‘line of sight’, ma#imum operating height of 4,555m, ma#imum speed L5 "m per hour. Andurance 64*45 minutes. -e!uires s"illed %$+ pilot, usually supported by a cameraCsystems operator. 'ajority of drone journalism in urban areas will initially use this type. $F4,555 * F45,555 depending on comple#ity.

$F45,555 'i"roHopter +)to,opter S0 $1mage source@ 'i"roHopter DA

3. &mall fi#ed wing craft. -esembles large model aircraft. >and launched. +arious types

have ?<*D5 minutes endurance with a range of 65*?< "ilometres. (an be operated beyond visual ‘line of sight’ of the operator. -e!uires set up of antenna for ground


control station. &uitable for longer range regional or coastal assignments. $F4,555* F<5,555, depending on comple#ity.

T)& Rite'ing -ephyr 11 $F4,555, range 75*?<"m 1mage &ource@ fpvlab.comCchic"en sashimi

Ra.en -R*66) with gimbal*mounted camera. 1n service with %& military. $ppro#.%&F7<,555 each. 1mage source@ Aero.ironment

4. 0ong*range fi#ed*wing craft. 6E*4<"g. 2perated by the military as ‘tactical’

surveillanceCreconnaissance craft , current civil applications includes mining survey and fisheries patrol. >ighly comple#; can re!uire a s"illed crew of 7*? to operate. A#ceptional endurance 4?T hours day and night. -e!uires support infrastructure of launch catapult and recovery net or ‘s"yhoo"’. 'odified for newsgathering, this type could operate effectively in remoteCrural $ustralia, e#tended disaster coverage, offshore assignments; 3apanese whalers vs. environmentalists in the &outhern 2cean or the unfolding asylum see"er boat crisis off northern $ustralia. (an carry sophisticated dayCnight camera systems in gimbal mounts. Two types in military service that are commercially available in $ustralia are the Aerosonde and ScanEagle* $ basic Scan Eagle or Aerosonde platform costs appro#imately $F655,555. $ high end dayCnight camera, with thermal imaging, suitable for news*gathering can add another $F655,555*F4<5,555 9Defense1ndustryDaily 4567; 8oldberg, (orcoran : ,icard 4567; 1nsitu 4567;9$uthor interview with ,eter &mith, $erosonde (hairman;. %$+s in this class have become over*engineered to meet the demands of punishing military operating environments. 'anufacturers are now developing ‘civilianised’ versions. 1n 4567 $erosonde was developing a civil variant with a smaller engine and lighter airframe that would have 45G greater endurance, but only =5G of the price of the military version. The commercial variant was e#pected to have fully automated ta"e off, landing and flight systems enabling a reduction in crew size from ? to 4 9$uthor interview with ,eter &mith, $erosonde, 'elbourne, ebruary 4567;.


Aerosonde 'ar" ?.L 1mage &ource@$erosonde

)oeing*1nsitu Scan Eagle 1mage &ource@ )oeing*1nsitu


)a-or +onflict and militar! em4eds

3ournalists covering the %&*led interventions of western forces in 1ra! and $fghanistan usually had a choice of operating independently and ta"ing personal responsibility for their own security, or they could opt for a military ‘embed’ with western forces, where a formal or informal contract involved the military providing security, accommodation and transport for the journalist or news team usually in e#change for restrictions on movement and what could be reported. $n embed doesn’t always offer a greater degree of personal safety, as the military units accompanied are often specifically targeted by insurgents. 'any media wor"ers have been "illed or injured, alongside the soldiers they were reporting on. 3ournalists, news production teams and their employers are acutely aware of the high level of personal ris" associated with these assignments. 1n recent years media organisations have invested heavily in providing protective e!uipment, intensive first aid and ‘hostile environment’ training; as a way of at least partly mitigating that e#posure to ris". 2perating a small media drone in this environment, either embedded independently, may further reduce e#posure to physical ris" while enhancing the ability to ‘get the story’. or $)(*T+ teams on this type of assignment, all e!uipment is usually compact and lightweight capable of being carried in a bac"pac", should there be an unforeseen re!uirement to leave the vehicles and continue on foot. Drone technology needs to fit with this approach.


,hilip &winsburg recommended a small multi*rotor system weighing 4*L"g with a 6<*45 minutes flight time, which he assessed as offering greater versatility than the smaller fi#ed* wing craft which provide greater endurance 9up to D5 minutes;, but unli"e multi*rotors, have difficulty navigating urban filming environments, such as narrow streets or around damaged structures.
JIou can come down a bit lower, you can hover, and you can get a lot more stability in the aircraft. /hereas if you go for a conventional aircraft 9small fi#ed wing drone; you have a lot more space you have to operate in because you have to fly this thing, and you’ve got a lot more sophisticated gimbals in the camera that you then have to compensate forK 9&winsburg interview with author;.

Technological advances and ever*tightening budgets of media organisations have resulted in a reduction of the number of people deployed in a typical international newsgathering team, resulting in a higher degree of multi*s"illing. 1n the author’s e#perience with $)(*T+, the optimum configuration for a T+ team operating in a high ris" environment, from a safety and security perspective, comprises a camera operator and journalist with both sharing the producer role. 'ultis"illing predominates; journalists are e#pected to ac!uire basic filming and editing s"ills and e#perienced camera operators often act as directorCproducer and conduct interviews independently of the reporter. $ fre!uent addition to the team is a locally engaged ‘fi#er’ for co*ordination, translation and transport duties, although this fi#er has usually lac"ed technical e#pertise or familiarity with electronic news gathering systems. 'ulti*s"illing evolved to a new level in the 6DD5s with the emergence of the ‘video journalist’ a lone news*gatherer who conducts all of these tas"s, although many $ustralian ‘+3s’ also employ a fi#er when operating in hostile environments. $dding a small %$+ to this multi*s"illing mi# could potentially overload an already busy team. &winsburg argued that this problem could be addressed by using a control system with a high level of automation, operated by smartphone or i,ad, on which a series of way points, and pre*formatted flight plan can be loaded onto a 8,& map.
J&o you ta"e the s"ill away of flight because what you don’t want to be doing when you are trying to report, and capture information is worry about aircraftN.and then you focus on getting the camera shot that you want and not worry about the aircraft. 1f you are loo"ing at say, going a "ilometre from where you are reporting, then you can do that with relatively small antenna systems. 1f you want to go beyond a "ilometre, then you are starting to get into the use of dedicated antennasK 9&winsburg interview with author;. JIou could fit all of this really into one ,elican case. Iou might need to have some spare batteries etc. in another bag. $nd in that one ,elican case it wouldn’t be unreasonable to have your display or your noteboo" computer or your i,ad, your cables and re*charging "its in that containerK 9&winsburg interview with author;.

'ichael (o# assessed that drone newsgathering was more suited to assignments located in a relatively static location, where physical parameters were more clearly defined.
. J1’m thin"ing -amallah 91ra!; in 455?, we "new that city was under siege by the $mericans, there were opportunities to go in and out of that city with the $mericansNwe "now where the action is M for want of a better term Mwe "now who we’re travelling with and how we’re going to get in and out, you could then say, 2H, let’s ta"e this device in there and let’s put it upK 9(o# interview with author;.

There is also a ris" that a small drone, flying low and slow, would not survive for long in a hostile environment before being shot down. 1t is li"ely that opposing combatants would regard all drone activity as being military*related, ma"ing the craft, and potentially the operators, legitimate targets.


J1f someone sees a drone go up they "now that even if it’s a small one, it’s capable of being the eyes and ears for the opposing military, so they’re going to try and "noc" it down so it’s probably not going to stay up for very longK 9(o# interview with author;.

-eflecting on the $ustralian Defence orce 9$D ; e#perience in operating small and medium sized tactical %$+s in $fghanistan and 1ra!, &winsburg noted that the biggest problem with detection of small drones was not immediate visual identification, but noise.
J8enerally spea"ing, if you fly over a crowd, they’ll only loo" up if they hear somethingN1f you’ve got a system that’s a couple of hundred metres away it would probably be undetectable from visual sight, but you’d probably be able to hear it...that is a challenge because of the way these systems are designedK 9&winsburg interview with author;.

.he 5Disposa4le Drone, +oncept (onflict newsgathering may provide a suitable application for the concept of the ‘disposable drone’, where there is an accepted ris" the craft may be seized or destroyed. $nother benefit of the ‘disposable drone’ is that if it is to be sacrificed, the range of the craft, with a >D streaming video lin", may be effectively doubled, as there is no need to return to the launch point. 0ives do not have to be ris"ed in recovering a downed craft with on*board camera cards. $ simple multi*rotor fitted with a cheap camera, with an all up cost of $F4,555 fits this ‘disposable drone’ role concept. The current return to base range of this type of craft varies depending on e#act configuration, but is appro#imately one "ilometre. /hile the cheap ‘disposable drone’ concept provides immediacy, there is a resultant trade off in picture !uality.
J$ D&0- camera which is relatively cheap, being able to record relatively good !uality vision, you’d probably ta"e the punt and say ‘well loo" let’s fly that, we "now that that street down there is where all the action is, let’s fly it down there and fly it bac" and if it gets bac" well we’ve got some vision in the can’ K 9(o# interview with author;. J1t is still going to give you that high, wide shot but in these small pac"ages, you can’t put a camera with a big enough lens to actually be able to zoom down and get the sort of specific shots of groups of troops or groups of militia or whatever and also the stability. Aven if you could get a camera with that lens on it, the actual stability of the device, even though a lot of these cameras do have stabilisation, it wouldn’t be sufficient. Iou would have very jittery shotsK 9(o# interview with author;.

$n even cheaper option is to select from a growing range of smaller craft, mar"eted as toys, priced from $F755, that still offer basic >D streaming capabilities. .otable in this category is the ubi!uitous AR &rone /*0, manufactured by rench company ,arrot. 8lobal sales of the AR &rone have e#ceeded <55,555 units since 4565 and capability has steadily improved since the initial launch with a <5 metre range and 64 minutes endurance. Tests using the new ?8 mobile networ" ground control system, 8,&, and upgraded high density batteries have e#tended the $- Drone 4.5 range to one "ilometre, with a demonstration test flight across 1stanbul’s )osporus &trait 9'Pchaly 4564; 'ortimer 4567; ,arrot 4567; s%$&.ews 4567;. The AR &rone /*0 was easy to fly, however its small size and light weight made the craft unstable even in light winds and this adversely affected image stability. Despite these limitations, the AR &rone /*0 was potentially suitable for short range news*gathering on the periphery of street protests, where agility and immediacy ta"e priority over picture !uality.


The lightweight construction made it highly susceptible to damage, but e!ually, it was less li"ely to cause injury if colliding with people.

,arrot AR &rone M &mart phone control panel M including live video feed. 1mages (redit@ ,arrot (ompany.

A(+1.V Foreign Correspondent 1 nformal "roof of +oncept 1 Afghanistan 1n 4565, a team from $)(*T+’s Foreign Correspondent 9the author and camera operator (raig )er"man;, e#amined the potential for %$+ newsgathering during an informal ‘proof of concept’ while embedded with the %& $rmy in $fghanistan. The assignment focussed on a small orward &urgical Team 9 &T; and helicopter medical evacuation unit tas"ed with e#tracting casualties from the battlefield. This was a high ris" environment covering what a %& $rmy surgeon described as the ‘busiest &T in either $fghanistan or 1ra!’. 1n the preceding 65 months the unit had received =55 trauma cases 9(orcoran 4565b;. (oalition troops were subjected to fre!uent attac" and were routinely targeted by massive concealed roadside bombs or 1mprovised A#plosive Devices 91ADs;, capable of destroying large, heavily armoured vehicles. our months prior to the $)( assignment, an $merican journalist wor"ing in the district received life*saving treatment from the &T after being critically wounded in a vehicleC1AD incident that "illed an accompanying %& soldier 98ray 455D;. /hile filming a helicopter mission to recover three wounded and two dead %& soldiers from the aftermath of an 1AD e#plosion, the $)( team was offered %$+ imagery of the event as a ‘second unit’ to supplement conventional coverage provided by a helmet mounted 8o*,ro worn by a pilot and a camera positioned on the surgery helipad.


0aunched and controlled from the orward 2perating )ase, the tas" of the unarmed Shado' %$+ was surveillance; to provide early warning of possible Taliban attac"s on the casualty evacuation. 1n this role, the Shado' operated at a relatively high altitude of 7,<55*<555 feet above ground level, which resulted in distant images, suitable for surveillance, but too wide for optimal use in a T+ news production. $s a result, the vision was only briefly used in the final $)(*T+ report, but the operation underscored several advantages M and some problems * for media considering using the technology.

,ilot ‘point of view’ of the casualty evacuation. $rmed helicopter crewman stands guard in foreground. The pilots e#pressed fears that on the ground the helicopters were highly vulnerable to surprise attac" due to limited field of vision. 1mage &ource@ Foreign Correspondent $)(*T+

(asualties are carried towards the helicopter M as seen from the pilot’s position. 1mage &ource M Foreign Correspondent M $)(*T+.


Drone vision M The scene as recorded by the Shado' %$+ overhead. 1n this screenshot casualties are being e#tracted from vehicle wrec"age. The lead ‘camera’ helicopter on the mission is bottom left of frame. 1mage &ource M Foreign Correspondent $)(*T+

Drone vision MShado' %$+ live vision of the destroyed '-$, armoured vehicle in which two %& soldiers were "illed and three wounded. 1mage &ource@ Foreign Correspondent $)(*T+

+ase 6tud! 7essons $ drone may substantially reduce e#posure to physical ris" of the news*gathering team; -eal* time %$+ imagery can assist in identifying potential threats, providing a wider field of vision than possible from the ground, where the view of journalist or camera operator view may be obscured by vehicles, buildings and terrain M at a time when the team is focussed on the immediacy of the event. Drone imagery can be relayed as a live broadcast or incorporated in a pac"aged report. $ media drone may also be used as a ‘loo" out’ or reconnaissance during road trips in hostile environments by being launched from and controlled by a moving media vehicle, identifying threats such as the planting of roadside 1mprovised A#plosive Devices 91ADs;, which account for more than =5G of all casualties in $fghanistan 9(orcoran 4565a;.


This ‘proof of concept’ was conducted with a larger Shado' fi#ed*wing tactical %$+ operated by a specialist team. or media tas"s, the same capability could be achieved using a much smaller, simpler, hand*launched craft controlled by a single operator, flying at a lower altitude 9less than ?55 feet above ground level;, enabling much closer filming of on*ground activities. This e#ercise also identified several disadvantages; even small %$+ operations are highly labour intensive, potentially placing additional burdens on a busy, multi*s"illing news team. Distance reduces intimacy and conte#t. The ideal objective for drone newsgathering is to supplement or enhance ground*based coverage M not replace it. $ camera drone should not be viewed as an easy substitute for the immediacy of ground*based filming or reporting, nor considered as a replacement for direct interaction between reporter and subjects. There is also a potential ris" of collision with military aircraft and %$+s which often ‘swarm’ or ‘stac"’ over an incident or military operation. 'ilitary %$+Cmanned aircraft collisions and near misses have already occurred in the s"ies of $fghanistan. $fghanistan is one location where large numbers of 9military; %$+s of all types have had to share airspace with military and civil aircraft M and the problems encountered may be indicative of what lies ahead in more peaceful s"ies. $ 455= %.&C.$T2 report on airspace management highlighted the ‘current inability to co*ordinate and de*conflict the operation of %nmanned $erial &ystems 9%$&s;’.
‘The unprecedented proliferation of %$&s in recent years, specifically within tactical*level units and sub*units has dramatically increased the ris" to air operationsN$irspace managers have no way of controlling %$& operations at the tactical level where hand*launched systems are often employed for localized reconnaissance’ 98riffith 455=;.

This concern was first realised in dramatic circumstances on 75th $ugust 455?, when an $fghan*operated $irbus with 655 people on board, on approach to Habul $irport, passed within 6L5 feet 9<6 metres; of a 8erman $rmy 1una tactical %$+, with the near*miss recorded by the drone’s camera.

$ 8erman $rmy %$+ records a near miss with an airliner over Habul, $fghanistan, 75th $ugust 455?. 1mage &ource@ )undeswehr


1n $ugust 4566 the crew of a large %& (*675 transport aircraft narrowly escaped catastrophe after a mid*air collision with an -RL Shado' tactical %$+ over $fghanistan. Despite sustaining wing damage, the (*675 landed safely 9'ortimer 4566;.

The damaged (*675 following mid*air collision with -R*L Shado' drone over $fghanistan. 1mage &ource@ s%$& .ews

1n 4567, no commercially available anti*collision technology was readily available for small %$+s. ‘&ense and $void’ anti*collision transponders are now fitted to piloted aircraft, but developers still faced challenges in attempting to miniaturise the systems for %$+s. The %& 8overnment $ccountability 2ffice, after e#amining the progress of the $$’s integration of %nmanned $erial &ystems 9%$&; into the domestic airspace, made a sombre assessment’ 98oldberg, (orcoran : ,icard 4567;. 1n submission the 8$2’s 8erald Dillingham told a (ongressional panel that@
JTo date, no suitable technology has been deployed that would provide %$& with the capability to sense and avoid other aircraft and airborne objects and to comply completely with $$ regulatory re!uirements of the national airspaceK98$2 4567;.

)oth document incidents in $fghanistan involved larger %$+s with a ta"e*off weight in e#cess of 45"g. )ut the relevance of these e#amples to drone journalism is debatable, considering that the majority of %$+ newsgathering tas"s would be conducted by much smaller %$+s 9weighing less than L"g; flying at a very low altitude 9<55 feet above ground level;. ($&$ has conducted ‘"inetic energy’ tests to determine the threat of injury or damage to people and other aircraft, posed by %$+s of varying sizes. $ccording to senior ($&$ officer 3im (oyne, being struc" by a small %$+ weighing 4"g or less, would be comparable to being hit by a cric"et ball;
J$ cric"et ball weighs about 6=5 grams, but at 655 "ilometres per hour 9with a; "inetic energy of about =4 joulesNthere’s been no recorded incident of anyone being "illed by a cric"et ball in the stand. The potential for harm and the conse!uence is very low. /e tal" about a harmless %$&, causing minimal harm to a person. 1f it hits them on the head it will give them a headache. 1f it hits them in the bac" it will give them a bit of a bruise, but it is not going to "ill youK 9(orcoran 4567;.


(ontrary to widely stated fears in the %& and $ustralia that being struc" by a drone9 in the 4* L "g weight category; would be comparable to being hit by a ‘low flying lawnmower’ 9(orcoran 4564d;, ($&$ e#pressed few concerns; J,otential for harm goes up, still it’s not going to do a lot of damageNthat’s seven "ilograms, about the weight of a si# month*old baby, at 6? "nots, or 4= "ilometres an hourK noted (oyne 9(orcoran 4567;. mplications of deplo!ing media drones over civil communities during conflict -eporting on military activity from an ‘embed’ is only one element of news*gathering in conflict. $n e!ually important component is the impact of the conflict on the civil population; investigating and reporting on issues including aid distribution, medical treatment, refugee welfare and allegations of human rights abuses. &uch assignments re!uire the journalist or news*gathering team to display a high degree of sensitivity and tact. There is a high ris" that media drone flights may be mista"en for military activity 9author interviews with (o# : &winsburg;, particularly on assignments in $fghanistan and the tribal areas of ,a"istan where there is already a high level of military drone activity resulting in e#tensive civilian casualties. Data compiled in 4564 indicated that ‘drone stri"es "illed 4,<=4*7,74< people in ,a"istan, of whom ?L?*EE6 were civilians, including 6L= children’ 9.I% 4564;. (.. national security analyst ,eter )ergen and associate 'egan )raun calculated that Jthe number of high level targets "illed as a percentage of total casualties is e#tremely low Mestimated at just 4GK 9)ergen 4564;. 1n an e#tensive investigation, 1i.ing 2nder &rones by &tanford 0aw &chool and .ew Ior" %niversity &chool of 0aw, e#amined the psychological damage caused by the permanent presence of %& drones over communities in northwest ,a"istan and found that;
JTheir presence terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to an#iety and psychological trauma among civilian communities. Those living under drones have to face the constant worry that a deadly stri"e may be fired at any moment, and the "nowledge that they are powerless to protect themselves. These fears have affected behaviour. The %& practice of stri"ing one area multiple times, and evidence that it has "illed rescuers, ma"es both community members and humanitarian wor"ers afraid or unwilling to assist injured victims. &ome community members shy away from gathering in groups, including important tribal dispute*resolution bodies, out of fear that they may attract the attention of drone operators. &ome parents choose to "eep their children home, and children injured or traumatized by stri"es have dropped out of schoolK 9.I% 4564;.

&uch deep*seated trauma and anger would have significant conse!uences for drone newsgathering. /ith the proliferation of satellite T+ in the remotest rural communities of $fghanistan and ,a"istan, it has been the author’s e#perience that most communities now have a basic understanding of the role of a news*gathering team and the e!uipment carried. >owever the unannounced arrival of a T+ crew with a piece of "it of !uasi*military appearance will invariably raise suspicions.
JThese things are still seen as military devices and given the e#perience on the ,a"istan border over the last couple of years, no matter what size the drone is, any sort of device floating over a compound is going to be seen as militaryN &ome people might recognise it as not being big enough to carry weapons but they would see it as surveillance device or possibly another drone or for troops who are in the areaK 9(o# interview with author;.


1n $fghanistan or ,a"istan it is unli"ely that a community would immediately ma"e the distinction between media and military drone flights M despite very different methods of operation.
JThe little !uad coptersNthey often travel very low to the ground, whereas most of the military systems are probably sitting at about a thousand feet, so they would be outside the field of their immediate awareness zone, so they can operate and not necessarily be all that intrusive. &o if you do have a small system and its right down low in the crowd, trying to get the imagery which is what T+ would li"e, high definition, high !uality video, then you are going to be a lot more intimate to that crowd and in itself could cause some problems, so that’s what 1 say, it is a matter of determining what your re!uirement is and then start at that point and wor" towards your ultimate goalK 9&winsburg interview with author;.

1n addition, cultural and religious considerations need to be addressed. or e#ample, in rural $fghanistan and ,a"istan, traditional communities live in walled compounds and engage in the practice of ‘purdah’, with strict rules on gender segregation and public movement.
J,utting a drone up over those compounds, there would be an e#tremely hostile reaction from the locals and you would be undermining your own coverage plan because a lot of the way we go about covering things we see" to engage the locals as much as possible, as much as we can, and we rely on it. /e hope to engage with locals because not only do they give us intelligence on where we can go and how, hopefully they, we can bring them into the story and film with them, maybe film with their family and get a sense of what this story’s about to them. &o anything that is detrimental, that is a huge negativeK 9(o# interview with author;.

8ther ris*s for media drone operations in conflict 'edia coverage of other conflicts, such as &yria’s ongoing civil war, may present additional problems for potential drone news*gatherers. 1n 4567, western media coverage of the &yrian civil war was conducted predominately from the side of the fractious, poorly trained and ill*disciplined militia groups that opposed the technologically well*e!uipped state army of the $ssad regime. 1n 4564, 77 &yrian and international media were "illed covering the conflict, the hazards heightened by fre!uent 8overnment attempts to specifically target media wor"ers 91 3 4567a;. The (ommittee to ,rotect 3ournalists 9(,3; reported that the deaths of at least two journalists may be attributed to the interception and location of their satellite phone transmissions by &yrian regime forces 9-ayner 4564; &myth 4564;. &mall %$+s are particularly vulnerable to this threat, as the craft re!uire radio lin"s for control and separate channels for video streaming. These control channels broadcast on well* "nown model aircraft fre!uencies. 2nce airborne, a small drone emits signals omni* directionally M going in all directions. The ground based control station receives these signals and also transmits omni*directional signals bac" to the drone. These emissions would be relatively easy to intercept and locate using basic military signals intelligence e!uipment. Drone newsgathering is still possible in this high threat environment; however &winsburg cautioned against flying larger, comple# drones that re!uire a stand*alone radio control networ", instead, he suggested deploying a cheaper simpler craft that can be operated by smart phone and on*board /i* i.
JAven the commercial mobile phone networ" can be used to control this so it would be difficult to target in on a mobile phone, if there are thousands of those about the place. &o it depends on that communications networ" you are using, if one stands out, that’s easy to detect that’s going to be a

military communications device or its going to be something else, then that can easily be detected but if you blend into the bac"ground it’s a little bit more difficultK. 9&winsburg interview with author;.

&winsburg suggested basic countermeasures, such as establishing a re*transmission point some distance from the journalistCcontroller’s location.
JThat way if there was any ris" of being shot at, then it would hit your relay and obviously that’s just a communications antenna or bo# on the ground. Iou don’t get injured. $nd your aircraft would have a failsafe so that if communications is lost it would come bac" to a "nown point which you could then go and collect thatK 9&winsburg interview with author;.

The %& 8overnment $ccountability 2ffice 98$2; in investigating the integration of civil drones in %& domestic airspace also highlighted another problem; the potential for jamming of drone control signals. ‘$ccording to one industry e#pert, 8,& jamming would become a larger problem if 8,& is the only method for navigating a %$&’. The 8$2’s Dillingham testified to the %& (ongress that small drones were also vulnerable to spoofing, where a third party ta"es control of the navigation signal 98oldberg, (orcoran : ,icard 4567;.
JThis type of scenario was recently demonstrated by researchers at the %niversity of Te#as at $ustinNDuring the demonstration at the /hite &ands 'issile -ange; researchers spoofed one element of the unencrypted 8,& signal of a fairly sophisticated small %$& 9mini helicopter; and induced it to plummet toward the desert floor. The research team found that it was straightforward to mount an intermediate*level spoofing attac", such as controlling the altitude of the %$&, but difficult and e#pensive to mount a more sophisticated attac"K98$2 4567;.

1n 1ra!, insurgents were able to easily monitor unencrypted video feeds from patrolling %& drones using cheap, off the shelf systems 98orman 455D;. 1n &yria, government forces have operated more sophisticated intercept systems. $s a counter measure, &winsburg recommended the installation of commercially available encryption software in the media craft 9&winsburg interview with author;. .$T2 defined &yria as a ‘hostile electronic environment’ and jamming of electronic signals by the &yrian regime has been both fre!uent and sophisticated. The regime has also deployed small drone technology for filmingCreconnaissance purposes. 1n 3une 4567, the Washington Post reported that &yrian 8overnment forces were operating 1ranian supplied surveillance drones to locate opposition forces 9/arric" 4567;.

"otential 6overeignt! ssues /hile smaller %$+s are limited to a small operating radius of 4*<5 "ilometres, the larger, more sophisticated platforms now commercially available, such as the ScanEagle and Aerosonde are potentially capable of ranging thousands of "ilometres. $ ($&$ official wor"ing on %$+ regulations noted that a Scan Eagle based in $ustralia Jcould fly to .ew UealandK 9(orcoran 4567;. The newsgathering capability of this ‘tactical’ class of %$+, is enormous, as the craft can also be launched and recovered from larger vessels. ,otentially, such craft could be deployed on a variety news*gathering tas"s that, to date, have largely defeated the logistical capabilities of media organisations; such as providing independent verification of &outhern 2cean confrontations between 3apan’s whaling fleet and environmental activists, or bypassing the


media restrictions on ‘2peration &overeign )orders’, by independently locating and monitoring the fate of asylum see"er boats that depart 1ndonesia and head for $ustralia. $lready there are indications that not all operators of high performance %$+s are prepared to abide by the rules. 1n .ovember 4566, a -oyal $ustralian .avy target*towing jet encountered an unidentified fi#ed wing drone, while flying at 7,555 feet, =< nautical miles east of 3ervis )ay in .&/. The mystery drone was not operated by the $ustralian, .U or %& military or any of the certified civil operators 9(orcoran 4564c; 8oldberg, (orcoran : ,icard 4567;. The civil emergence of this medium altitude, long endurance capability may present uni!ue sovereignty issues for news organisations. There may be unintended conse!uences if the media %$+ is launched across a national border into a country where foreign media access is banned or tightly controlled. Tim -obinson, Aditor of Aerospace nternational raised highly plausible scenarios of the implications of the ))(, (.. or Al Ja3eera launching a drone into &yria to document atrocities, or fly over 1ran’s hyper*sensitive nuclear research facilities.
JTo penetrate a denied area would suggest a long*range %$&, flown from outside the borders. Iet the news editor would most be interested in footage that was closer in, to emphasise the human aspect M li"e what a +T20 %$& carrying a >D camera might provide. &econdly, is that while journalists do smuggle themselves inside restricted areas M using a %$& might indicate a significant escalation and perhaps even an act of war. /ould a ‘news’ %$& flown over a 1ranian suspected nuclear facility be recognised as a; from the media and b; unarmedBK 9-obinson 4564;.

$t a national level, regulations and restrictions on potential media use of %$+s in $ustralia, the %& and Aurope are clearly defined and evolving, but the regulatory and political conse!uences of launching media drones, particularly over conflict zones, where government authority may already be contested, is far more ambiguous. $viation’s global regulatory body, the 1nternational (ivil $viation 2rganisation 91($2;, has been wor"ing with national regulators to formulate rules on how international and intercontinental %$+ flights will be managed. $s with many other aspects of this emerging technology, international regulation still lags behind capability 9($&$ briefing, attended by author, $valon 1nternational $ir &how, ebruary 4567;. .or have regulators reached international agreement on the important issue of fre!uency spectrum M the radio channels that can be used for controlling %$+s. The issue was raised at the 4564 1nternational Telecommunications and the /orld -adio (onference, but delegates deferred ma"ing any important decision until 456< 98oldberg, (orcoran : ,icard 4567;. Discussion Drone technology offers great potential for news*gatherers covering conflict, but there are some important !ualifications. 3ournalism is about people and personal contact and %$+s should not be seen as an easy substitute for the journalist or news team on the ground. The drone is a camera platform, a tool to be incorporated among all the other news*gathering technology and professional s"ills a journalist uses on hazardous assignments. (onflict reporting is not just about military embeds. A!ually important is the civil story; aid distribution, medical treatment, refugees, investigation of human rights abuses. 1n this environment media drones should only be deployed with great sensitivity. $s detailed in 1i.ing 2nder &rones by &tanford 0aw &chool and .ew Ior" %niversity &chool of 0aw, communities subjected to fre!uent military drone attac"s suffer high levels of trauma and


psychological damage, so launching a media drone in such an environment could not only add to their suffering but potentially e#pose the news team to greater ris" from a hostile population. The $D and other western military forces will need to ac"nowledge that %$+s and the airspace over a conflict zone is no longer their e#clusive preserve. Defence officials may be forced to review the contentious subject of media management; embedding and reporting; as %$+ technology may in some cases lessen media dependence on restrictive embeds. 1f a journalist wants to !uic"ly confirm details on the activities of an $ustralian or %.&. $rmy unit 45 "ilometres distant in the ne#t valley in $fghanistan, why should that reporter be subjected to the limitations of an embed, when a small fi#ed*wing drone Mcan be swiftly launched to establish the factsB $s a former commanding officer of the $ustralian $rmy’s %$+ unit, 45th &urveillance and $c!uisition -egiment, ,hilip &winsburg supported the concept of embedded media crews operating small drones; however he opposed the idea of un*embedded ‘unilateral’ news teams operating a drone independently, in the vicinity of troops.
J1f on the other hand there was say, an undisclosed crew that is filming you as you are going through a building and doing operations that would be concerning because 1 don’t "now where that imagery is going, who is seeing that information, so potentially that could be giving my position away and putting my guys in dangerK 9&winsburg interview with author;.

3ournalists will not be alone in launching small drones over conflicts. $s detailed in the introduction to this paper, the 0ebanese militia >ezbollah ma"es the claim to be the first non* state player to operate small, unarmed %$+s during its ongoing confrontation with 1srael. 9&hadid 455=;. &uch is the rate of proliferation of this technology, the low cost and simplicity of operation that it is li"ely that Taliban drones will soon appear in $fghanistan’s s"ies.


/evolution and +ivil Unrest: Drone Journalism in an ur4an environment.

$ctivist and opposition groups have already demonstrated the news*gathering potential of drones over urban protests in several countries. 1n December 4566, a multi*rotor was launched to ta"e pictures of the scale of a crowd, protesting against election fraud, in )olotnaya &!uare in 'oscow 9-T.ews 4566;. ‘(itizen journalists’ flew a drone over a large anti*government rally in $rgentina that had gathered in opposition to rising inflation, violent crime and corruption 9$l3azeera 4564;. $nother early demonstration of the technology occurred in /arsaw ,oland in .ovember 4566 when an anonymous activist launched Ro(o)opter a small multi*rotor to record rioting, then uploaded the vision to IouTube 9$non 4566a, 4566b;. The videos illustrated the capability of a small drone in easily circumventing police barricades bloc"ing media access to the centre of a protest.


Drone 2ver /arsaw M .ovember 4566. Demonstrating the suitability of small multi*rotor drones for news gathering in confined urban environments. &ource@ 4ouTu(e anonymous 9$non 4566a, 4566b;.

Deploying a drone over a volatile urban assignment re!uires a high degree of tact on the part of the operator, and security concerns may limit the drone’s effectiveness. 'ichael (o# wor"ed e#tensively as an $)( camera operator covering the 1sraelC,alestine conflict in the streets of 8aza and the /est )an". 1f operating a small drone in this environment, he assessed his first priority as locating a secure launch and recovery point, preferably on the roof of a small five or si# story building.
J)ut even that far removed from the crowd, you’re probably going to get spotted, given the size of the device, the limitations on how far aware you can be from the device to control it, and people are not going to be wildly e#cited. They’re going to always assume the worst. They’re going to assume that you are there as some sort of government surveillance or military surveillance or there to gather information which is detrimental to them so you’re always going to come under suspicion. /e’re certainly not at the stage where they’re so ubi!uitous that people can wal" in with their drone and fly it up and the protestors go ‘oh terrific, we’ll get some better coverage on the news tonight’K 9(o# interview with author;.


1n 4566 the author spent two wee"s with protestors in (airo’s Tahrir &!uare covering the ‘Agyptian -evolution’ for $)(*T+’s Foreign Correspondent program and witnessed Agyptian and foreign media wor"ers being systematically targeted by regime security officials and pro*regime vigilantes. 2n one occasion, the Foreign Correspondent team was attac"ed on Tahrir &!uare and the camera e!uipment damaged 9(orcoran : /ilesmith 4566;. During another incident, $)( producer 8reg /ilesmith, camera operator (raig )er"man and translatorCAgyptian producer Ioussef Taha were detained by vigilantes at a roadbloc", blindfolded, bound, and held in military detention for several hours, before ultimately being released unharmed 9/ilesmith 4566;. 2ther Agyptian and foreign media wor"ers fared much worse. 2ne Agyptian journalist was shot dead by a sniper; dozens of international and Agyptian media wor"ers were variously attac"ed, beaten, stabbed, se#ually assaulted, detained, and in some cases tortured 91 3 4566a, 4566b; . $ significant challenge during this assignment was establishing a method of visually illustrating the scale of the protests and conflict that ebbed and flowed in and around Tahrir &!uare. ilming at a fi#ed location at street level e#posed the crew to the ris" of assault or abduction and the $)( team spent many hours negotiating with residents and protestors for access to rooftops and balconies that provided a vista of the unfolding story. /ould a drone have made a differenceB Foreign Correspondent Agyptian producer, ))( journalist Ioussef Taha concluded that deploying a %$+ in such circumstances would have provo"ed an attac" on the crew;
J9$ drone; would have put us on war path with the government and the protesters. The government has overall control on all aircraft, private jets and helicopters are not allowed. (amera drones * however small, are illegal. There was an incredible amount of suspicion from all sides. >ad we used one the government wouldQve shot it down in no time or the protesters would have brought it down. 1 was branded QspyQ, QtraitorQ, without a camera drone. 1magine if we used oneV 9$uthor email correspondence with Taha;.

(ivilian %$+s remained banned in Agypt in 4567. 1rrespective of this prohibition, Taha believed that community suspicion of the technology was an even greater obstacle. >e said this suspicion was ingrained through decades of military rule and it would ta"e several years before media drones were Jculturally acceptableK.
J-umours spread li"e wildfire in Agypt. $nything they donQt "now is immediately woven into foreign conspiracy theory. ,eople are averse to being filmed or photographed secretly. Their immediate reaction is bring the "it down and destroy itK 9$uthor email correspondence with Taha;.

Alsewhere in the 'iddle Aast attitudes evolved rapidly. 1n 3une 4567 in Tur"ey, protestors in 1stanbul’s Ta"sim &!uare launched a small multi*rotor, a $FL<5 D81 Phantom e!uipped with a $F755 !o Pro camera, to illustrate the confrontation with police, with the vision broadcast by C"" nternational. (onfirming (o#’s observation on the vulnerability of the technology, the drone was ultimately shot down by police, but another craft soon appeared to ta"e its place M an e#ample of the ‘disposable drone’ concept where there was an accepted ris" the craft may be seized or destroyed M then easily replaced by another small, simple, cheap but effective %$+. $ decade ago this type of aerial filming capability would have re!uired a much larger craft, that according to aerospace engineers, would have cost more than $F655,555, many times the size of a Phantom with an operating comple#ity beyond the e#pertise of most journalists and activists 9author presentation to the &rone Po'er Conference, (anberra, 3uly 4567;.


Drone vision over Ta"sim &!uare, 1stanbul, Tur"ey M 3une 4567 1mage &ource@ Twitter 3en" 6D5LCIouTube.




2. ,rotestor &! Phantom drone over Ta"sim &!uare. 3. >it by police gunfire. 4. $ftermath.

1n Agypt in $ugust 4567, following the military ousting of ,resident 'ohamed 'orsi, his 'uslim )rotherhood 9'); supporters deployed a small D81 Phantom over mass protests in (airo’s -abaa $daweya &!uare. The ') drone monitored movements of the opposing security forces and was used to document the large size of the demonstrations, as a way of illustrating the level of support for the deposed ,resident. The craft was openly operated by ') cadres, yet some elements of the crowd, reinforced Taha’s observations, by telling journalists of what they incorrectly assumed to be ‘a suspicious foreign drone’ operating in the vicinity. $fter confirming that the craft was operated by the '), Agyptian police reportedly shot down the drone 9$l3azeera 4567; 'uslim)rotherhood 4567;.


Disaster +overage.

Disaster coverage is one major application of drone technology where positive attributes overwhelmingly outweigh negative considerations. $ small %$+ operating over a large


disaster area such as a tsunami aftermath, floods or bushfires can provide reasonably high !uality pictures of a large area at low cost.
J1’m thin"ing now of the tsunami damage in 3apan, there are places that a reporter and a cameraman could get to !uite closely but because just of the mountain of debris and it being unsafe, they couldn’t get pass that initial wall of debris. 1f they had a device li"e that they could launch it and they could actually get !uite useful shots of the debris fields and whatever else was going onK 9(o# interview with author;.

Drones may also enhance the safety of the journalist operating in a disaster zone. or e#ample, bushfire activity is notoriously difficult to predict and many casualties occur when wind changes suddenly alter the direction of the fire*front. Aarth!ua"e aftershoc"s also cause numerous casualties when people are struc" by falling debris from damaged buildings. $ small drone deployed in these locations could provide a stand*off capability enabling the news*gatherer to record the images from a safe distance. 1n the aftermath of the (hristchurch earth!ua"e in 4566, engineers deployed a small ,arrot AR &rone 9 a hobby*level multi rotor craft that is operated from a smart phone or tablet device, and transmits live >D vision 9,arrot 4567; ; to inspect e#tensive damage inside the city’s (atholic cathedral, after it was declared too dangerous for wor"ers to enter.
‘JAven if we lost it in the building ‘cause weQre never !uite sure with the /i* i range or the battery life, but if it turned out to be a suicide mission itQs a F<55 one not a far more serious one,K said engineer .icholas Dawe’ 9>ampton 4566;.

'obility for news*gatherers may also be enhanced by deploying a drone to reconnoitre damaged roads, enabling !uic"er movement around the disaster zone.
J1t’s all well and good to have a four wheel drive vehicle but on a lot of these stories the vehicles then become useless because the terrain, because of what’s happened, isn’t passable, so then you’re on foot. That ability to see over the horizon, and sometimes the horizon can be literally ten meters in front of you, you just literally cannot see over what’s in front of you and you can’t get up, you physically can’t get up high enoughN1t might be a case that you "now a "ilometre ahead there is nothing significant that you want to film, but a "ilometre to the left or the right or behind you there is. &o this gives you that bird’s eye view that allows you to ma"e decisions about the coverageK 9(o# interview with author;.

.he Dail! Drone 1n 4565, -upert 'urdoch’s .ews (orporation established The &aily, a tablet*based digital news service, promoted as the world’s first i,ad*only newspaper 92remus 4564;. The &aily soon ac!uired a small camera*e!uipped %icro&rone 'D?*6555 multi*rotor, operated by a private contractor ‘as part of its drive for more creative content’ 9%$&+ision 4566c;. This e#ample highlighted both the disaster coverage potential of the technology and the regulatory restraints of operating domestically in the %nited &tates. The tablet news service created a segment titled The &aily &rone and the %icrodrone was dispatched to cover natural disasters, providing dramatic coverage of tornado aftermath in Tuscaloosa, $labama, and flooding on the 'ississippi -iver. The &aily &rone provided a uni!ue perspective, flying lower than a news helicopter, often just 4*< metres above ground level as the craft recorded ‘some stunning videos’ of trac"ing shots of natural disaster aftermath, rescue and reconstruction 9'a"sel 4564;. Adited with an accompanying scripted voice over, the news pac"ages were highly professional in presentation. $t this time (.. also briefly launch a foray into drone journalism, with one (.. reporter ‘e#perimenting’ with a far less sophisticated AR Parrot hobby drone at the aftermath of the


Tuscaloosa tornado. &ha"y imagery of the destruction was posted on the (.. website, but the (.. vision was mar"edly inferior in !uality to The &aily &rone production and the networ" soon abandoned the e#periment 9%$&+ision 4566a;. 1n contrast, The &aily made a substantial investment in technology, e#pertise in operating the e!uipment and editorial post* production. The &aily &rone segments generated news stories and commentary on other %& media, which praised the innovation and !uality of the vision and concept, but also !uestioned the legality of the operation as under %& $$ regulations, commercial operation of drones in domestic airspace was illegal. $ subse!uent $$ investigation resulted in a warning to The &aily 9 rancescani 4567;. The $$ ultimately determined that The &aily had crossed the line into a commercial purpose, and The &aily &rone e#periment was permanently grounded 9'a"sel 4564;.

$ %icrodrone 'D?*6555 1mage &ource@ 'icrodrones.com

&creenshot of a J&aily &roneK video report of tornado damage in Tuscaloosa, $labama. The imagery was recorded from a %icro&rone.

3u*ushima ollowing 3apan’s devastating 4566 earth!ua"e and tsunami, three different types of drone were successfully deployed as part of the emergency response to closely e#amine damage to the crippled u"ushima nuclear plant. $ "ey problem for crisis managers during earlier nuclear incidents at the 6DLD partial meltdown at the %& Three 'ile 1sland plant and the &oviet (hernobyl disaster in 6DE= was a lac" of detailed visual information. A#tremely high radiation levels made even short term e#posure for humans fatal 9'adrigal 4566;. 1mmediately following the earth!ua"e and subse!uent tsunami, the %& 8overnment authorised 45 missions by %& $ir orce !lo(al $a'), over the damaged u"ushima Daiichi nuclear plant 9%$&vision 4566b;. The %&F455' !lo(al $a') was the largest, most


sophisticated %$+ in operational service, capable of cross the world on non*stop 7< hour missions. !lo(al $a') primarily a high altitude military intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform, and TA,(2 urgently needed a closer inspection, so smaller %$+s were soon dispatched to the site. irst to be launched was a small fi#ed wing %$+, operated by $ir ,hoto &ervice 9$,&;, a private commercial aerial photography venture 9$ir,hoto&ervice 4564;.

The Air Photo Ser.ice team prepare the $,& %$+ for the second mission over the crippled u"ushima Dai*ichi nuclear plant on 'arch 4?, 4566. 1mage (redit@ $,C$ir ,hoto &ervice.

A"6 1 UAV wingspan endurance ta"e*off weight range (rew 4.Em ?.< hours 7<"g <55 "ilometres 7

1n the days leading up to the earth!ua"e and tsunami, $,& had, on contract to local government, conducted aerial surveying of potential disaster locations near a volcano in Hagoshima, southern 3apan. ollowing a direct re!uest from a 3apanese cabinet minister, $,& immediately redeployed to a location L5 "ilometres from the u"ushima Daiichi plant, believed to be outside the radiation zone, and launched two D5 minute missions over the stric"en facility, recording 755 images on each flight 9A*mail and phone correspondence with the author via interpreter;. $ radiation e#pert was on standby for decontamination after each mission, but $,& (hief A#ecutive Iamaza"i claimed there was no detectable contamination, despite the craft’s multiple low*level passes just 755 metres above the damaged reactors. The $,& drone was


not fully autonomous and the missions had to be pre*planned with calculations of direction, route and airspeed programmed into the drone prior to launch. 2nce airborne, progress of the craft was monitored via computer. The operators were unable to directly control the camera or transmit images from the craft bac" to the control point in real*time. $ll =55 images were sent to TA,(2, but only 65 were approved for public release.

This 'arch 45, 4566 image ta"en by the Air Photo Ser.ice %$+ shows a wide shot of the crippled u"ushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, from left; %nit 6 9partially seen;, %nit 4, %nit 7 and %nit ?. 1mage source@ $,C$ir ,hoto &ervice

'arch 45, 4566, Damaged %nit ? 9left; and damaged unit 7 9right; from the $ir ,hoto &ervice %$+. 1mage &ource@ $,C$ir ,hoto &ervice.


'arch 4?, 4566. The Air Photo Ser.ice %$+ image shows the damaged %nit ? of the crippled u"ushima Dai* ichi nuclear plant. 1mage (redit@ $,C$ir ,hoto &ervice.

)y the fourth wee" of the crisis, TA,(2 re!uired closer e#amination of the damage than the $,& %$+ could provide, so a different %$+ type, the %& >oneywell T5$a'), was called into service. Dubbed ‘the flying beer "eg’, the T5$a') has a ‘hover and stare’ capability, enabling e#tremely close access to the target for on*board cameras 9>oneywell 4567; 'adrigal 4566;. T5$a') had been e#tensively deployed by %& forces in 1ra! searching for roadside bombs 9$rmyTechnology 4564;. our T5$a')s were sent to u"ushima, two flying operationally, and two held in reserve. The drones were operated by an $merican civilian crew wearing full*body radiation protective gear. TA,(2 restricted information on the e#act nature of the missions. >owever the civilian >oneywell crew told the Wall Street Journal that the T $a')s were unaffected by radiation, but that rain and heavy winds prevented the drones from getting airborne on some days 9,asztor 4566;.

>oneywell T5$a') %nmanned $erial +ehicle 1mage source@ >oneywell $erospace.

9one!well T-Hawk

-otary Ducted '$+ 9'icro $ir +ehicle; E "g <5 minutes 65 "ilometres ,etrol engine

Ta"e*off weight Andurance 2perating radius ,ower plant

T5$a') image *seashore*side of the reactor building.

T5$a') image of operation floor of a reactor building

1mages source@ TA,(2

2n 3une 4?, a T5$a') lost control while collecting dust samples around the comple# and was forced to ma"e ‘an emergency landing’ on the roof of the .o.4 reactor. 3apanese and western media reported that the ‘landing’ appeared to be a crash. Due to the small size and weight of the craft, TA,(2 stated that it was unli"ely that the drone had pierced the damaged reactor roof, and announced that the drone would be recovered by a long crane 9>erald&un 4566; 1najima 4566;. light restrictions caused by high wind and rain, and the accident underscored the limitations of current small %$+ technology. Despite this mishap, 3apanese and %& sources indicated that the drone operations provided valuable visual data for emergency co* ordinators 9'adrigal 4566; ,asztor 4566;.


$ T5$a') 6centre of picture7 lies on its side after ‘crash landing’ on the roof of u"ushima -eactor .o.4 1mage source@ 3apan .ews Today.

3apan’s atomic energy authority and the $erospace A#ploration $gency later announced a joint project to develop a specialist drone to measure environmental radioactivity 9$ , 4564;. 3ames $cton, $ssociate of the .uclear ,olicy ,rogram at the (arnegie Andowment for 1nternational ,eace told nternational 8usiness Times that;
J u"ushima is not the worst nuclear accident ever but it is the most complicated and the most dramatic. This was a crisis that played out real*time on T+, (hernobyl did notK 91nternational)usinessTimes 4566;.

The u"ushima drone missions closely matched tas"s that would have been set had the %$+s been specifically operated by news organisations. This was a major story of international significance, but restrictions imposed by u"ushima’s operator TA,(2, and the 3apanese 8overnment resulted in very little of the drone imagery being publicly disseminated. Hathleen (ulver in ‘Ethics Aloft’ theorised that drone journalism could have provided a way of validating the accuracy of 8overnment statements on this crisis;
J.ews organizations suspected the government of hiding the e#tent of the damage and the release of radiation but were powerless to challenge official figures. $ drone with cameras and radiation sensors would have provided a fast and cheap chec" on the official story and represented citizens’ interestsK 9(ulver 4564;.

The u"ushima drone missions raised public awareness of the news*gathering capabilities of the technology. $erial ,hoto &ervice was subse!uently commissioned by a commercial T+ networ" to once more fly over the stric"en u"ushima plant to film a documentary. This flight had TA,(2 approval. $ir ,hoto &ervice (A2 Henzo Iamaza"i said one unintended response to his high profile u"ushima missions came from police, who subse!uently made periodic visits to the $,& offices and e#pressed a concern that the $,& drone could be stolen by terrorists and used to spread deadly sarin gas. Iamaza"i said the 3apanese 8overnment did not impose restrictions on his operations, and by $pril 4567 $,& was operating two fi#ed wing and two rotary %$+s 9A*mail and phone correspondence with the author via interpreter;. .he 7ithgow1(lue )ountains (ushfire


Drone vision of the .&/ )lue 'ountains bushfires. 2ctober 4567 1mage &ource@ IouTubeC(ividrones.

1n 2ctober 4567, an anonymous drone operator Ci.idrones9 posted a IouTube video of the aftermath of the )lue 'ountains bushfires that had caused widespread destruction in .&/ 9Ioutube 4567;. The video clip, which appeared to have been recorded from a small multi* rotor, showcased the e#traordinary capabilities of the technology as the craft trac"ed through a burnt out building, over fire*fighters and what appeared to be a bac"*burning operation. The clip was widely broadcast by several major media groups including the $)(, airfa#, .ews (orporation and the ))(. The (ivil $viation &afety $uthority 9($&$; subse!uently warned that such flights were illegal, that operating a remotely piloted aircraft in the same airspace as helicopter and planes fighting fires ‘created a real ris" of a mid*air collision’ 9$)( 4567a;. ($&$’s concerns may be warranted as small multi*rotor drones would be difficult to control in the high winds generated by bushfires and the smo"e would ma"e the craft difficult to spot from the ground or low flying fire*fighting aircraft. $nother factor that may potentially discourage the use of small multi rotor drones for newsgathering at bushfires, is the inherent fire ris" posed by the craft. 'ost consumer*grade small multi*rotor %$+s are powered by volatile lithium*polymer batteries that have a history of e#ploding or catching fire following heavy impact with the ground or a tree branch 9Him, Tredeau : &alameh 455E; &anchez 4564;. Januar! $%&:: ABC News .he .asmanian (ushfires 1n 3anuary 4567, $)(*T+ .ews broadcast its first drone ‘user generated content’ on the Lpm Tasmanian state new bulletin, with aerial vision of the aftermath of the devastating bushfires in the township of Dunalley. The drone vision was recorded by local enthusiast -ian Taylor on a small homemade craft;
J'y brother, who is in the fire brigade, had been in chopper above devastated area earlier in the day. 1 was passing through helping with generators, thought 1’d put up a drone. 1’ve always got one in the bac" of the car. 8ot about 45 of themN 1 posted the vision on my 4ouTu(e page and was contacted by N$)( .ews. 1t went on the news and 1 was contacted by people from around the worldK. 9$uthor communication with Taylor;.


(urrent ($&$ regulations were obeyed, as Taylor operated as a hobbyist and recorded the vision for the sole purpose of posting on his 4ouTu(e page. The $)( news producers offered no payment or reward, when re!uesting permission to broadcast the online material 9Taylor 4567;. The vision was aired only after $)( editorial staff were satisfied that the images were authentic, had been recorded under ethical circumstances and that Taylor had not breached any air safety regulations during his flight.

Drone 1mages of the Dunalley bushfire devastation M broadcast by $)( T+ .ews 3anuary 4567. 1mages &ource@ RianRe: IouTubeC-ian Taylor.

Drone enthusiast and %ser 8enerated (ontent ,rovider * -ian Taylor. 1mage &ource@ ;*<0 Tasmania9 A8C5T=*

Taylor, who was subse!uently profiled in a story on $)(*T+’s ;><0 Tasmania, stated that he operated under ($&$*approved ‘safe conditions’ insisting that he would never launch over an active fire due to low visibility caused by smo"e, and the hazards of fire*generated winds that can gust to 6<5 "m per hour, ma"ing the drone dangerously uncontrollable. Taylor invested $F4,555 in his custom built craft which he said had a ‘safe’ range of =<5*L55 metres. Taylor claimed to be also developing a disposable $F6=5 micro drone for the local fire brigade 9/ood 4567;. Amployed as a private investigator, Taylor stated that he did not deploy drones on investigations as he lac"ed the appropriate ($&$ %$+ certification and regarded the craft as Jtoo noisyK for surveillance wor" 9$uthor telephone communication with Taylor;.


A(+ # ;mergenc! (roadcaster The $)( serves as $ustralia’s Amergency )roadcaster during natural disasters such as bushfires, cyclones and floods. The mainstay of this service is the $)(’s networ" of =5 0ocal -adio stations around the country which broadcast localised warnings and alerts to residents during a crisis. $)( T+ and 2nline services also provide support during emergencies 9$)(Amergency 4567; 'anni# 4564;. (ould a large $)( drone enhance this capability, when local communications infrastructure may be damaged or destroyedB 1n 4565, .&/ -ural ire &ervice 8roup 'anager Tim $nderson published a comprehensive (hurchill ellowship study; mpro.ing 8ushfire ntelligence Through The 2se +f 2nmanned Aerial =ehicles* /hile ac"nowledging limitations imposed by current technology, cost and regulation, $nderson concluded that %nmanned $erial &ystems 9%$&; could provide effective 4? hour fire surveillance capability ‘%$&s can provide improved local fire information, especially at night when current aircraft are not available’. >e also noted that %$&s could provide JNbetter decision ma"ing and more accurate public warnings’ 9$nderson 4565;. 1n a related development, the %& military introduced the concept of %$+s as flying cell* phone towers to provide 78 smart phoneCinternet coverage over parts of $fghanistan where terrain degrades reception for the conventional ground*based networ" 9$c"erman 4565; &ternstein 4567; Te#tron 4564;. 0arger, fi#ed*wing drones such as the Aerosonde#ScanEagle type could theoretically be deployed by media, above the firefighting aircraft, flying in a pre*determined racetrac" pattern for more than 4? hours at a time, recording vision day and night, using conventional and thermal imaging cameras. 6ummar! &mall drones offer considerable advantages for news staff deployed on high ris" assignments such as wars, civil unrest and natural disasters. /hen embracing this technology and its many benefits journalists should be mindful not to be completely removed from the story they are covering. Direct personal contact remains an essential element; gathering information and gauging mood, conte#t and accuracy, and this is difficult to achieve remotely. )ut there are applications where it may be too dangerous or difficult to have a journalist ‘on the ground’ where the ‘lone drone’ could be e#tremely beneficial to the safety of news gatherers in the field. /hile this is in many ways a transformative technology, it is unli"ely that drone news* gathering will radically alter the practise of journalism, in terms of influencing editorial decisions or changing storytelling methods. The development of the internet, smart phones, cheaper smaller cameras, more powerful telephoto lenses, laptop editing systems and the availability of commercial satellite imagery have all contributed to a technological revolution in news*gathering. Drones will add another e#tremely powerful element to this already impressive array, but it is the author’s belief that the craft will ultimately bolster a technological shift already in motion, rather than creating a distinct media genre. 1t is clear that the phenomenal pace of %$+ development and the rapid proliferation of this technology has caught government regulators, the aerospace industry, and potential civilian


‘adaptors’, including media, by surprise. .o*one really "nows how ‘The Drone $ge’ will ultimately evolve. $s Dr. ,eter /. &inger, %& )roo"ings 1nstitution robotics and technology e#pert noted;
JThis is a technology that’s a game changer. 1t’s been so on the military side, it will be the same on the civilian side, it’s real, and it’s coming. .o amount of hand*wringing is going to stop itK 9(orcoran 4564d;.

The challenge now for journalists and media organisations is to ensure that the technology is adopted within a clearly defined operational framewor" where safety, ethics and privacy are paramount.

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