News Media Coalition partners with Virginia Test Site

By Emily Aasand | January 21, 2015

A coalition of 10 news media outlets have formed to test the use of small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) for news gathering. The coalition will work with Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, a school that is part of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration-selected UAS test site called the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership.

The coalition participating in the testing includes: Advanced Publications Inc.; A.H. Belo Corp.; The Associated Press; Gannett Co. Inc.; Getty Images (US) Inc.; NBCUniversal; The New York Times Company; The E.W. Scripps Company; Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc.; and The Washington Post.

The news media coalition came together in March 2014 and filed a legal brief urging federal regulators to consider the First Amendment implications on journalists as they considered the safety issues with unmanned aircraft flights.

“As an outgrowth of that collaboration, most of the coalition members continued to engage in dialog with the FAA, Congress and the administrators of the mid-Atlantic test site of Virginia Tech. The agreement to conduct these test is the result of those discussions,” said Charles Tobin, partner at Holland & Knight law firm.

“The AP is excited to join with these other leading media companies in exploring the safe and responsible use of drone technology for newsgathering purposes that further our understanding of current events,” said Santiago Lyon, AP director of photography.

The coalition has been working since mid-2014 through the law firm of Holland & Knight LLP, to develop testing protocols with Virginia Tech.

“Virginia Tech sees this collaboration as a key to groundbreaking research to use UAS for the news and broadcasting industry on a routine basis,” said Rose Mooney, executive director of the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership. “UAS can provide this industry a safe, efficient, timely and affordable way to gather and disseminate information and keep journalists out of harm’s way. We are excited to be partnered with the consortium and the FAA to further UAS integration into the National Airspace System.”

“The news media looks forward to helping the government create a legal framework that provides for the safe gathering of news by UAVs consistent with the media’s and the public’s First Amendment interest in journalism,” said Tobin. “This testing will take us far toward reaching that goal.”

This announcement comes days after CNN said it’s expanding its drone-reporter research with Georgia Tech.

In August, the FAA granted Virginia Tech seven certificates of authorization for two-years. UAS models tested at the site include the Smart Road Flyer, an eSPAARO (electric small platform for autonomous aerial research operations), Aeryon Sky Ranger, MANTRA2, Sig Rascal, and two AVID EDF-8 micro UASs. 


For more on the UAS industry, follow us on Twitter @UASMagazine