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FAA Treats “Commercial” Newsgatherers and Citizen Journalists Differently



More than 1 million small, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) (also known as "Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) or "drones") have been sold during the 2015 holiday season. Most of these commercially available UAVs weigh less than seven pounds and have built-in cameras that allow their operators to take high-definition aerial photographs and videos. The most popular models sell for less than $1,000, and starter UAVs can be purchased for just a few hundred dollars. Given the growing popularity of UAVs, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has adopted or proposed regulations that ensure the safety of U.S. airspace. Unfortunately, in doing so, the agency has crafted a regulatory scheme that distinguishes between commercial and non-commercial UAV operators in a way that may run afoul of the U.S. Constitution and chill newsgathering activities.

The impact of UAVs can be seen across multiple industries, including the domestic real estate, energy, and insurance markets. However, the anticipated ubiquity of UAVs may have the greatest consequence on the gathering and dissemination of news by both traditional media organizations and unaffiliated citizen journalists. In much the same way that advances in mobile technology have decreased the cost of newsgathering by arming every citizen and reporter with a pocket camera, and social media platforms and inexpensive webhosting have provided a venue for anyone to publish newsworthy content, UAVs further democratize newsgathering by providing a low-cost and more versatile alternative to the traditional piloted news helicopter.

Read the article: FAA Treats “Commercial” Newsgatherers and Citizen Journalists Differently


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