Doug Toppin's Blog

My thoughts on technology and other stuff

The Technology of Drones Applied to News Reporting

There is an interesting story in the CNN news today about a reporter using the Parrot AR.Drone for some video to support a news report about storm damage in Tuscaloosa. The AR.Drone is a small battery powered helicopter style remotely piloted vehicle. It has two video cameras (forward and down) and the user can fly and observe the video via their iPad/iPhone. I had the opportunity to watch a friend fly one a few months ago and I was pretty impressed with all of the technology that is packed in this little system. It has limited altitude and endurance but shows the potential of a news reporter being able to get more interesting or accurate views of a story in progress. In the CNN case the reporter added a higher definition GoPro camera to get improved video. In situations where there is a crowd (a perp walk for example) or a house fire a reporter being able to get a higher or overhead view in real-time seems pretty neat. The Parrot runs around $300 and is in reach of reporters/people and can be kept in a car trunk for rapid use. It is easy to imagine the aggravation of local police, fire and rescue personnel of a few people flying these around the scene of an event in progress but it does show how industry can turn a “toy” into something that becomes much more useful to people. If you wanted to use something like this you would be advised to have a stack of charged batteries because I think that the endurance I observed previously was around 20 minutes. It also does not do well in windy situations but is very well stabilized in no wind environments. This is clearly just the beginning and I expect that news vans will likely start including it in their equipment list. It is also easy to imagine the CNN tablet/phone app including a “live video feed from drones” tab in the not too distant future.