Drone Journalism Raises Legal, Safety, and Ethical Issues

Jay Owen Trendspotting, Earth Systems Science

We at Ethical Markets Media  are also concerned with the ethics of drones , since no technology assessments have yet examined their full range of social and environmental impacts.  As an Active Member of the National Press Club,I appreciate their coverage of these issues ~ Hazel Henderson, Editor 

Matt Waite, University of Nebraska journalism professor, and attorney Chuck Tobin described at a July 23 National Press Club event the issues that accompany the advantages of using small drone aircraft for journalism.

“Drone journalism is an evolving area,” Tobin said, because it involves so many legal, safety and ethical issues.

He explained the legal uncertainties that have arisen because the Federal Aviation Administration has not completed the process of creating and implementing regulations for drones, also known as UAVs — unpiloted aerial vehicles. In the absence of enforceable drone regulations, the FAA has relied on a combination of regulations and laws devised for airplanes and hobbyists. Essentially, until the regulations are developed, commercial use of a drone is considered illegal.

Tobin showed a video of the University of Virginia campus by Raphael Pirker, which led to a $10,000 fine by the FAA. The case, now on appeal with the National Transportation Safety Board, has been joined by a number of journalism organizations, including the Club, he said. The case was described at a June Newsmaker here

The FAA has been charged by Congress with developing official regulations for drones, he noted, and urged that the regulations be sensitive to First Amendment issues. He and colleagues are talking with the FAA, he said.