Aerial photography assignment turns into public outreach with drones

Each day, as more stories of drones being used for environmental research, wildlife management, and journalism come to light, public perception of this technology shifts. There are signs that the word "drone" is beginning to shake an association with "weapons" in the court of public opinion, and unmanned aircraft systems are being thought more of as universal tools that can be used a variety of useful purposes.

As public opinion can shape regulations, journalists seeking to use this technology would be wise to safely demonstrate drones in front of the public.

Case in point: Caleb Scott, a Kansas City-based owner of Birds' Eyes Aerial Media and board member of the Professional Society of Drone Journalists, recently set out on a three-day aerial photography assignment. When a hotel owner took notice of his equipment, Scott took some time to show the public his small drone in action:

I was preparing my equipment and doing preflight checks in the lobby when the owner of the hotel walked into the room. He took interest in what I was doing so I explained to him about the courthouse.

He told me to wait for takeoff while he fetched his son. He returned with his son and we went out to the courthouse yard across the street.

I did my thing, buzzing around the courthouse and framing different photos using the video glasses. After my first battery died, I offered to let the owner and son wear the video glasses while I flew line of sight.

Pretty soon we had gained a small crowd of 8-9 people from the neighboring restaurants and shops. I spent the next half hour explaining how my equipment worked and draining batteries giving demonstrations.

The reason why this experience was so significant to me is that it reminds me of something we as drone pilots should keep in mind.

As attention from the media and from politicians rise around the field of commercial drone operation, we must remember that all of us play an important role in the future of our field.
— Caleb Scott, Birds' Eyes Aerial Media, PSDJ Board of Directors.