The TV group, which operates the largest newsgathering drone program in the country, is also selected for participation in the FAA’s Integration Pilot Program.
The FAA has granted Sinclair Broadcast Group permission to fly its newsgathering unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) beyond daylight operations, a restriction to which most UAS operators are subject. Sinclair said the waiver was granted based on Sinclair’s demonstrated high standards of safety and risk mitigation.
“Sinclair’s safety training and protocols go above and beyond the minimum’s required by the FAA, which is a big part of our success,” said Jeff Rose, Sinclair’s chief pilot and head of drone fleet operations. Sinclair currently operates the largest newsgathering drone program in the country, with almost 100 FAA certified and licensed pilots, and nearly 50 trained visual observers, operating at 40 stations and having logged over 6,000 flights to date.
Rose continued, “A lot of breaking news happens at night, whether it is safety or weather related, and these exigent circumstances benefit from drone coverage.”
This approval comes on the heels of Sinclair joining the FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program (IPP). The purpose of the IPP is to advance the UAS industry by allowing stakeholders to incorporate new practices for safe UAS operations in the most responsible manner.
The FAA recently announced only 10 state, local and tribal governments chosen to participate in the IPP. Sinclair will serve as corporate partner of the Commonwealth of Virginia’s successful bid to participate in this exclusive program and further the development of the UAS industry.
The company was one of the first to partner with Virginia Tech, also a member of Virginia’s IPP team, for flight training. Sinclair has worked with the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership since 2016, sending nine groups of veteran photojournalists for training in flight operations, safety, and compliance with the FAA’s Part 107 regulations.
As Virginia Tech stated, this program is “good news for the commonwealth’s residents, who will have a strong voice in the conversations unfolding around drones and their benefits. Through the program, the Virginia team will seek expedited flight permissions from the Federal Aviation Administration to perform some of the most complex flight testing ever attempted in the U.S.”
Sinclair joins other leading corporate partners in the UAS industry in this endeavor. “Drone journalism has brought local television news coverage to the next level. It enables us to cover local news, weather, traffic, and other important local topics with a new perspective and our viewers love it. Our involvement in this program speaks volumes to our commitment to the safe use of drones for newsgathering. As we look toward the future of the UAS industry, we are proud to be a part of the innovation that will define its success,” Rose said.