Lawmakers apprehensive about journalists using aerial robots

Predictably, a common theme that has emerged among proposed legislation to limit the use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS, commonly referred to in the media as "drones") is privacy and use by law enforcement. But while lawmakers are investigating "drones" in the context of searches and warrants, they're also being introduced to applications of the technology in commercial, non-legal realms.

One of those applications, "drone journalism" by commercial media, has ruffled feathers in Missouri.

From the Gateway Journalism Review:

State Rep. Casey Guernsey, the bill’s sponsor, said Tuesday he has no problem with journalism students learning how to use drones. But the Republican from Bethany opposes the notion of news organizations using remotely controlled flying cameras to collect information.

“If they want to learn about it, that’s perfectly fine,” said Guernsey, whose district includes parts of four counties in northwest Missouri. “If we are moving into an age of news agencies using drones to collect information on private citizens, I’m definitely concerned about that.”

Kansas City's KCTV5 reported that Guernsey had a stronger reaction when he was first told about the drone journalism program at the University of Missouri, headed by KBIA's Scott Pham:

Guernsey, who chairs the Agriculture Committee in the Missouri House, doesn't show the same enthusiasm for the project that Pham and, by extension, Mizzou has been doing.

"You've got to be kidding me. That's enormously disturbing to hear about," Guernsey said.

Pham has said that his program only seeks to conduct reporting over public land and open fields, for the purpose of agricultural and environmental reporting.

The Missouri drone journalism program recently announced that it was planning to obtain aerial footage of a controlled prairie burn for its first reporting project using aerial robots.
Posted on February 25, 2013 .