Alphabet Inc’s Wing Aviation unit on Tuesday got the OK to start delivering goods by drone in Virginia later this year, making the sister unit of search engine Google the first company to get U.S. air carrier certification, the Federal Aviation Administration said.
U.S. TV broadcasters have been flying drones with FAA permission since August 2016. By the end of 2017, 45% of U.S. TV stations already owned drones, and another 9% were planning to buy them, according to RTNDA Executive Director Dan Shelley.
The Federal Aviation Administration has been busy these last few weeks, promulgating a bunch of different rules that have some consequences — short-term and long-term — for drone journalists.
The FAA has issued a new set of rules requiring all unmanned aircraft systems (or drones) to display official registration numbers on the outside of the aircraft. Previously, registered drone’s unique identifier could be stored inside the device in an easily accessible area such as in the battery compartment so long as it was “readable and legible upon close visual inspection.”
The 10,000th flight occurred on Jan. 30, part of an assignment for a news report for WPMI Mobile, Ala. The drone was commanded by Robby Hughes from Sinclair’s WEAR Pensacola, Fla., with visual observer Jan Czernik stationed in Mobile.
WAVY, Nexstar’s NBC affiliate in Portsmouth, Va., is in the fortunate position of having its own news helicopter on the premises as well as a drone. But deciding when to use either is a fine art. “So we see what fits best, the drone or the helicopter, and some days, we have them both out,” said Jeff Myers, WAVY’s news operations manager and chief photographer.
When KXLY Spokane got its drone, the staff was expecting to be able to use it to cover all kinds of news stories. What the newsroom didn’t anticipate was how limited the area to fly in was going to be: there are pretty tight FAA regulations around Spokane because of two airports and a military base in the area. Like any good innovator, station executives didn’t let this setback stop them though. They used it as an opportunity to create a new franchise for the station. They weren’t really able to fly in the city, but the area all around — the beautiful scenery of the Inland Northwest — was fair game.
Television stations can use the service to access drones and pilots to produce high-quality news coverage.