The state of drone regulation and journalism in Australia with Mark Corcoran

Australian journalist Mark Corcoran, featured in a 2011 video from the Lowy Institute on the use of drones in journalism.

Australian journalist Mark Corcoran, featured in a 2011 video from the Lowy Institute on the use of drones in journalism.

There currently are about 44 entities approved to fly through Australian airspace with drones, but none of those are major news organizations. Instead, many news outlets instead contract out that work to specialists, said Mark Corcoran, a journalist with Australian Broadcasting Corporation and drone journalism researcher.

Corcoran discussed this and other facts about the current state of drone journalism in Australia on ABC's Media Report. He also noted that while it is illegal to fly in Australia without approval, it has been impossible for the Civil Aviation and Safety Authority to clamp down on illegal drone flights.

"...(CASA) have a complete inability to regulate it - to enforece it. CASA said we can write rules on this, but that's pointless. It's kind of bad law. The technology is now proliferating at such a rate, particularly we're talking about very small drones... that it's almost impossible to control. "

The technology isn't yet "good enough" for paparazzi to make much use of it, but meanwhile, use of very small drones has taken off with hobbyists and other members of the general public. That can create a whole new set of problems besides privacy, Corcoran added.

 "Everybody is a potential paparazzo now. Everybody's a potential freelance cameraman. They've got their digital-quality smartphone. They can send their footage in and in one sense, using drones, is an extension of that. Small drones, I'm talking about the very small ones. There are issues of privacy, there are issues of air safety, the manned aviation community is quite concerned about. Issues of control. Because you're getting a whole lot of people coming into this space now, who don't regard this as an aviation activity. They regard this as a flying smartphone."

Corcoran is perhaps the foremost expert on drone journalism in Australia, and was recently co-author to a Reuters Institute paper on the subject (pdf). He currently is in the process of turning his drone journalism research into a master's thesis at the University of Technology in Sydney.

Corcoran also was one of the first members of DroneJournalism.org, and the first member from Australia.

In 2011, he spoke to the Lowy Insititute on the subject of drone journalism. That video is hosted on Vimeo for public viewing.