What the Telegraph's drone journalism of a community living on a chemical dump means for environmental reporting

Telegraph Roma.jpg

The story of Romania's treatment of the Roma community is gaining renewed attention, with a report about the country's second-largest city evicting 76 families and relocating them to the top of a chemical waste dump.

Recently, the Telegraph dispatched journalists and a drone to report on the plight of the Roma community atop the dump known as Parta Rat.

At Parta Rat, just one bathing facility serves a community of 356 people, and children complain of breathing problems from the many harmful chemicals that soak the mud.

The Telegraph's aerial footage enhances an already shocking and well-researched report. I do, however, wonder what kind of drone-assisted environmental reporting could add to this excellent example of drone journalism.

Drones, being a natural platform for any number of simple or sophisticated sensors, can be equipped to take hyperspectral imaging.

Video cameras are designed to capture the light that we perceive naturally. Hyperspectral sensors, instead, can look beyond the visual spectrum and peek into the ultraviolet and infrared parts of the spectrum. Such imaging could reveal the composition and concentration of whatever chemicals the Roma community copes with on a daily basis.

Baring expensive hyperspectral sensors, a reporter could send mud and water samples off to an environmental lab for analysis. Environmental field testing kits might also be an option.

In other words, this is thinking of drones as an integral part of sensor journalism.

Even without such high-resolution environmental data, the human toll is easy to understand. You just have to ask the people living there about it.

Below is the aerial video produced by the Telegraph.