News Agencies and Drone Use

This morning I came across an interesting story. It turns out that in addition to all the investigating NewsCorp is getting over its phone hacking, they’re also being investigated by the FAA. Which seems rather odd.

It turns out that their affiliate The Daily has a drone that it’s used to fly over a few disaster areas to get overhead shots. Now, that doesn’t harm anything, and in fact it’s a rather useful idea. FAA regulations ban the use of drones for anything other ‘research and development purposes’. That is to say, as a hobbyist I’d be perfectly allowed to fly a drone if I ever get around to building one (aside from small restrictions like ‘under 400 feet’). I could not, however, start a business taking pictures with it and selling them. Which is apparently the problem here.

This isn’t likely to result in any fines for NewsCorp or anything of course. The FAA has already stated that they’re reviewing their regulations, and given how popular drones are becoming (to say nothing of how incredibly useful they can be, commercially or otherwise), it’s hard to imagine they wouldn’t loosen it up a bit. They do have an experimental licensing situation in the works already, and opening that up will mean a whole new stream of revenue for them.

Forbes has a good writeup with more specific details here.