Drone Journalism

Drone Journalism


Hi everyone. My name is Dale Blasingame. I’m a senior lecturer in the School of Journalism
and Mass Communication at Texas State University. Welcome to the latest module of the PhDigital
Bootcamp, and this week we’re talking about drones – one of my favorite things to talk
about. I haven’t always been interested in drones
because they’re only been around for a couple of years, but once I did, I took to it pretty
quickly and I’m hopeful a couple of y’all will as well. What we’re going to talk about this week is
some core things to think about as you prepare for your time here in San Marcos. Most of that time, we’re going to be flying
drones. So you will have some experience flying drones
once you get done with the in-person part of the bootcamp. Some things to know before we come to that
– I’ll have some resources later in this module to learn more and dive in and get introduced
to the world of drone journalism and drone education. Welcome to the world of drones, and one thing
to keep in mind is drones go by several different names. You will sometimes hear them referred to as
UAVs. The FAA often refers to them as UAS – more
specifically, sUAS and that means small unmanned aircraft systems. So don’t let any of those extra names throw
you off. We’re talking about drones. It all means the same thing. One other thing to keep in mind is not all
drones are created equal. We have several different types of drones. We have these little nano-drones, which cost
$10-$50 and you can buy at Best Buy or Walmart or Target. You may have a son or daughter or niece or
nephew or little brother or sister who flies these things. They’re generally harmless. They generally weigh less than half a pound. But one of the videos I’m going to show you
in the resources part of this module does some amazing work with these. These are really hard to fly. Then there’s this. This is what we typically think of when we
think of drones. This is a Phantom 4, which we’ll talk about
here in a second. When we’re talking about drone journalism,
almost all of it is happening with something like this. But we also have fixed-wing drones. These are done with a lot of photogrammetry,
which we’ll talk about here in a little bit. These are more stable, they can fly longer
and they can fly faster. So it’s much better for data collection because
you can cover more ground in a shorter amount of time with these fixed-wing drones. It’s impossible to talk about drones without
talking about one company – DJI. DJI produces most of the drones you end up
seeing in the air or that you think of when you think of drones. The one up top is the Phantom 4. That’s the latest of their Phantom line of
drones. The bottom right is the Mavic Pro, which is
what you’ll be flying when you come to San Marcos.This is a foldable wing drone, so you
actually fold those wings out. But you can see it fits in the palm of your
hand, so they’ve gotten a lot better size wise. Bottom left is Inspire – the top of the line
for DJI’s drones. Pretty heavy, pretty intense to fly, but does
some remarkable work. Those wings actually come in and come out. It’s crazy to see in the air. A couple of things about DJI. It’s headquartered in China. It is a Chinese company but they’ve hired
a lot of the drone experts from the United States, including many legal experts to be
part of DJI. Kinda cool back story – the founder of DJI
got a $2,300 grant from his university in China to come up with a drone and now they’re
the name brand in terms of drone technology. It’s no joke that DJI is the biggest deal
in drones. They control 85% of the market and made almost
$3 billion in revenue last year. So big company and most of the drones you’ll
see in the air are DJI. I want to walk you through a couple of the
ways drones are used. And the first ones are what you think of most
or what immediately comes to mind. That’s just storytelling. Photo storytelling. Video storytelling. Newsrooms are using them. Regular people are using them to tell stories,
to get that aerial footage. That’s no big surprise and the most common
thing drones are used for. This is during Hurricane Irma last year in
Naples, Florida. What we saw around the country was a lot of
people got the best shots because newsrooms couldn’t get to all the places they were trying
to go to survey the damage. Lots of potential for user generated content
when it comes to drones. This is a really beautiful piece from Business
Insider last fall up in the northeast in New England about fall foliage. These drones can shoot amazing footage. The stabilization of this is amazing. The beauty and the color, the crispness of
the image. We’re not losing any video quality by shooting
from a commercial market drone. You’re still getting amazing footage from
this. One of the things you may not think about
but is a lucrative market in the drone world is tower inspections. You can see here – we’re really high up in
the air and sending a man or woman up to inspect this tower if a light’s out or if it’s not
working properly is not only costly it could be very dangerous, as well. So instead, what a lot of companies will do
is send a drone up to take a look and figure out which light is out so if they have to
send someone up they have the right part for that. Or if it’s just a blinking light, you get
a good look at it and you don’t have to send the person up all those steps in a very dangerous
situation in order to see that. Real estate has really taken to drones. One of the first industries that saw the potential
of it. This is much different than what you used
to see when you were looking at homes and still photography. This is someone flying through this house
in California. You have these amazing videos that real estate
agents or they’re hiring people to produce these and using to sell homes. One of the really great uses of drones, and
one thing that excites me most about drones, is the search and rescue potential for it. Fire departments, police departments, first
responders in general are using drones for heat mapping and finding people who are either
lost or stranded in the woods – you name it. Drones can help find those people much faster. They’ve done testing with this and drones
have, across the board, found people much faster than search parties can do it. Very exciting use of drones right there. Then there’s data collection, which drones
from the sky can produce a ton of data and collect a ton of data. This is one aspect that the agriculture industry
has really taken to. Farmers, ranchers are using drones to model
their lands and then produce 3D models, which actually has a name for that. It’s called Photogrammetry. Here’s an example of the science of photogrammetry,
which is just taking measurements with pictures – usually from the sky. So drones are a perfect thing to accomplish
this goal. All the data is collected, put into a 3D modeling
software and you have these realistic, searchable, scannable models you can produce with drones. So really exciting technology when it comes
to that. You’re going to hear people talk about Part
107, and I don’t want to get into this too much right now because I don’t want to make
your head hurt. But I do want to introduce Part 107, which
is the FAA’s guidelines to what you have to do to become a commercial drone pilot. Part 107 is the set of rules and the name
of the exam you have to take if you want to do things for commercial purposes. You get your remote pilot certificate or card
that comes along with it. Really what you need this for is if you’re
going to do anything at all that involves business or “furtherance of business” – that’s
the FAA’s term. As soon as you see dollar signs in terms of
how you’re using the drone, you need that Part 107 license. Otherwise, you’re just a hobbyist. If you want to fly in your backyard or have
your kid fly in the backyard – don’t need a license for that. But if you’re using it for business, you do
need Part 107. We’re going to get more into Part 107 when
you get here to San Marcos. But I want to go over five really quick rules. These aren’t, by no means, exhaustive. But these are five of the most important rules
of Part 107. We’re going to talk a lot about airspace. I’ll show you some sectional charts when you
get here to San Marcos. You have to know the airspace where you’re
flying and whether you can fly there or not. You have to maintain visual line of sight
of the drone. You have to keep your eyes on the drone. At least one party of the flight crew has
to be able to see the drone with the naked eye for you to fall under Part 107 rules. The FAA wants you away from weather. So they have very specific cloud guidelines
and weather guidelines. We’ll get into that when you get here to San
Marcos. This is the one that people break the most. You can’t fly over people. Any time you see drones over a concert or
big event, they’re breaking the rules in terms of doing that. Drones are flown fairly low to the ground. You can go up to 400 feet above the ground
– which is pretty high when you think about it, that’s 40 stories. Most people fly drones 100 or 150 feet up
in the air. We’ll be going way lower than that when you
actually fly. Couple of things to think about as you get
your mind wrapped around Part 107 and what it actually means and whether you’re interested
in taking the Part 107 exam. So that was a crash course – no pun intended
– on the world of drones and drone education. One thing I do want to close with is I’ve
taught a couple of courses preparing students to take the Part 107 exam. If that’s something you feel like you’d be
interested in, I will gladly open up my course material for you to take and study. Just shoot me a message in the Slack channel
and let me know.

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