Midwest journalism schools to seek drone permits

 ST. LOUIS (AP) – The journalism schools at the University of Missouri-Columbia and University of Nebraska-Lincoln plan to ask the Federal Aviation Administration for permission to resume using aerial drones for news-gathering purposes, school officials said.

Even if that permission is granted, researchers fear that existing rules will severely hamper the ability of the flying robots to actually cover breaking news events.

The FAA ordered the universities in July to stop flying the drones outdoors until they obtain government authorization. Scott Pham, content director for Missouri’s university-owned radio station KBIA-FM, said the school will apply for a federal permit known as a certificate of authorization. Nebraska journalism professor Matt Waite has said the school also plans to seek the permit.

“There are so many unanswered questions about using drones for journalism that it hardly makes sense to stop now,” Waite wrote in an open letter in response to the grounding of the drones.

Waite and Pham said they are optimistic they will eventually receive the permits, but are discouraged that the permits will restrict their ability to use the remote-controlled aircraft to gather news in a timely fashion. The permit requires applicants to indicate in advance where they wish to operate, which would make responding to breaking news impractical.

“We don’t want to say that journalism is impossible, because that’s an absolute that’s pretty easy to disprove,” Pham said. “But it’s hard to imagine how it could be done.”

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