by Carrie Brown
I was thrilled when I heard that my colleague and fellow Memphis journalism professor Darrin Devault and outstanding journalism student Tom Willcox had a new idea for a drone journalism startup they call Flyover Footage. They hope to offer news organizations drone video footage of events and breaking news.
I’m always pumped about finding new uses for technology in journalism, and I’ve been geeking out following news from Matt Waite, who runs the Drone Journalism Lab at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I was giddy last week when Waite flew a drone for us at the International Symposium of Online Journalism in Austin, Texas.
The idea is young, but Devault and Willcox pitched it at Ideas Weekend at the University of Memphis and have already begun doing some customer discovery and basic research. Drones are clearly much more affordable than a small plane or a helicopter for aerial footage. They pointed out that, given the amount of disruption in the journalism industry and the increasing demands placed on reporters, the time is ripe for experimentation with new methods for gathering news.
In addition to journalists, insurance agents could hire Flyover Footage to survey the extent of damage, and event planners and others might be interested in getting footage for promotional or commemorative purposes.
Devault and Willcox think they could fund an experimental phase for this startup for the relatively small investment of about $20,000. Commercial drones are available from $600 at the low end to $15,000 at the high end.
As Waite pointed out in Austin, drones are currently in a bit of a legal cloud, which we will have to watch and see how it plays out. The FAA has essentially banned domestic drone use, though lawyers like my friend Chip Stewart think that continue to be challenged and probably eventually overturned, and many states have considered or passed laws against them.