Drone use is on the up and up

The use of drones in newsgathering is becoming more widespread, raising ethical and privacy issues.

Most recently drones have been used to provide photo and video images of violent anti-Thai government protests in Bangkok for the major publishers, including The Bangkok Post.

In addition to news gathering, Amazon and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos is testing the use of drones for the delivery of online purchases. Mr Bezos says the type of drone he is testing, called an octocopter, will be capable of delivering a 2-kilogram parcel within a 16 kilometre radius of an Amazon depot.

The technology has already been used by national news agency Australian Associated Press, and editor-in-chief Tony Gillies believes the day it will be a part of everyday news gathering is not far away.

“If we can get our heads around how the newsroom will use such technology and the response time, then deploying this equipment may not be too far down the track,” he said.

AAP used drones equipped with high-definition video cameras to capture footage of the devastation wrought by the recent NSW bushfires.

Trained operators flew two six-kilogram “multicopters” around the fire-ravaged Springwood area to provide images that otherwise would have been difficult to obtain.

Mr Gillies said of the drone use in Springwood:  “It really highlighted the wonderful applications suddenly at your fingertips, helping to tell a story in very creative and compelling way. We’re now thinking of how to explore that further. It’s a really exciting time.”

Using such technology could raise privacy concerns, but Mr Gillies said the journalists’ code of ethics should eliminate such concerns.

“Any good journalist and media organisation knows where the boundaries are. Drones will make it easier to access areas, but we are still all bound by our own ethics, which means privacy should be maintained.

“Photographers for years have had long-lens cameras and they can basically take photos of anything. Yet they chose not to because they have their own ethics, and drone use would be treated very much in that vein,” Mr Gillies said.

The Newspaper Works CEO Mark Hollands said publishers needed to begin considering drone use in their code of ethics before it becomes prominent.

“All publishers have their own code of ethics and those who have not considered drone camera use need to contemplate this method of news gathering before this becomes a serious trend.”

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