More Media Organizations Turning to Drones to Enhance Their News Reporting

For years, media organizations have relied on helicopters to produce aerial views of breaking news events, including civic protest and parades, as well as the devastation caused by natural disasters.  But in a growing number of media markets, drones are replacing helicopters, thanks to their greater maneuverability, superior camera technology and the dramatically reduced cost of deploying them.

In the past, drones used to require highly trained pilots to be flown, even remotely, but FAA regulations passed in 2016 allowed relatively untrained operators to pilot them.  Drone aircraft are relatively cheap – as little as $1,500 – compared to the cost of a helicopter – perhaps $4 million – and don’t require expensive fuel or maintenance costs.

“Drones have the potential to supplant news helicopters to some degree and to provide aerial coverage for stations that cannot afford helicopters,” notes Henry H. Perritt, Jr., co-author of the 2016 book “Domesticating Drones: The Technology, Economics, and Law of Unmanned Aircraft.”  Because of their lower cost, he says, “the main advantage is that every news crew can go out with one and decide when its coverage might be useful.”

Because they’re crewless, drones are also safer than helicopters, especially in challenging airspace environments and in heavy winds and rains.  If a drone crashes, no lives are lost.

But drones, while more maneuverable in remote climes and tight spaces, are not always operationally superior to helicopters.  FAA regulations generally limit drone flights over public gatherings and drones are dependent on batteries for power, which limits their flight endurance.

Some news organizations have switched entirely to drones but others maintain both types of aircraft, allowing for more flexible news coverage.

“We use our Sky4 helicopter here in Jacksonville to cover breaking news and to get to a scene quickly,” explains Bob Ellis, vice-president and general manager of WJXT in Jacksonville, FL.  “But drones often provide far better pictures and can help tell a much better story,” he says.

UAVs may be especially useful for coverage of extreme weather events and their aftermath, news sources say.  Drones can swoop in and around damaged infrastructure, showing the full extent of the damage and can fly at dusk or even in darkness, if needed.   In recent years, news drones have exclusively documented erupting volcanoes and their lava flows, something suffering severe heat damage in the process.

Pewrritt foresees a news-gathering future in which drones gain increasing prominence, largely due to their cost advantages.  But news organizations that can afford them will likely maintain crewed helicopters.  Having a pilot or crew onboard to report on events live from a bird’s eye- view adds a compelling element that may be missing with remote drone coverage.

“Drones won’t ever completely replace news helicopters.  Because they are so much cheaper, they will be used in some markets instead of helicopters, and stations in big markets may renegotiate their helicopter contracts over time to use less helicopter time, filling the gap with drones,” he says.

ABOUT US: is a Nationwide Media Company specializing in custom Drone Videos for real estate, commercial, farms, construction, golf courses, roof inspections and more. All of our Drone Operators are fully licensed and insured. When you purchase a Drone Video Package from us, you will receive a video professionally edited, color corrected and presented to you on an SEO-Friendly webpage that you can easily share online and on Social Media with a click of a button. Click here to get started.

Previous Drone News:

Start Your Order
We Offer a Variety of Drone Video Packages
to Fit Your Needs and Budget