KCRW Takes on Drones

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KCRW is taking on the thorny topic of drones, aka unmanned aerial systems (UAS) used for everything from filming to surveillance to delivering champagne. The starting point for this discussion: KCRW’s own drone. Yes, the station has acquired a Phantom 2 RTF and we want to know what you think about it.


So, You Want to Fly a Drone

So, you want to fly a drone. Do you know the rules and regulations of where it can fly? How high? How far? Are you allowed to fly it over your neighbor’s house or crowd at a concert? Are you allowed to attach a camera?

The questions seem endless and venture into much thornier issues of privacy, free speech, and personal and public safety.

How do you feel about drones? Fill out our questionnaire.

Rules of the Air

The FAA is still trying to figure out how to regulate flying drones, aka unmanned aerial systems (UAS), for commercial use. The process was meant to wrap with new rules by September 2015 with rules governing the flight of drones weighing less than 55 pounds by the end of this year. But it has been held up by the complexity of arriving at regulations that involve input from numerous FAA offices and other agencies, including the Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security. In the meantime the situation has been characterized as the “Wild, Wild West” with more and more instances of drones falling into crowds, flying too near airports or buzzing outside people’s windows. However, the FAA has told Reuters that rules for small drones are “being drafted and will be issued for comment later this year.”

So while the regulators cogitate and debate, we want to know:

What do you think of drones? What do you think of the quadcopters with cameras attached, ranging in price from $500 to $20,000 and used for everything from TV news coverage to monitoring crops, from making reels of homes for real estate companies to exposing what’s going on farms rendered off limits to photojournalists by Ag-gag laws.

And, yes, they even deliver champagne.

KCRW Has a Drone

We are embarking on multi-platform coverage of drones and how we feel about them. The starting point for this discussion: KCRW’s own drone. Yes, the station has acquired a Phantom 2 RTF; it has already been used to film the site of our new building and we want to hear from you about:

— How you feel about us having one.

— What we should use it for. And what should we avoid?

— What we should call it (something cuddly or ominous?).

Add to that, commercial drones have a particular relevance to the Southland. Of the twelve companies that have petitioned the FAA to be exempt from the current commercial drones ban, eight are film companies that want to use drones to shoot movie scenes. They say specially trained pilots would fly small drones only on closed sets, making them at least as safe as manned helicopters.

On next week’s DnA we will talk about the KCRW drone. We’ll also hear how these drones are being applied to architecture, design and photography. And we’ll discuss what these uses mean for folks on the street. Will our cities be increasingly clouded by buzzing quadcopters? How safe are they? And just how great is the footage they capture, anyway?

Let us know your thoughts by responding to our questionnaire. And check out this video of Superman (drone footage) fighting crime in L.A.

Thank you.

Image top courtesy Don McCullough, Flickr