Drone journalism programs temporarily grounded by FAA

The fledgling “drone journalism” programs at the University of Missouri and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln recently received letters from the Federal Aviation Administration advising them that they lack proper authorization and could be subject to legal action. As a result, they will cease flying unmanned aerial vehicles outdoors for newsgathering and research purposes.

The universities had been following the rules laid out for hobbyists, but the FAA considers the schools to be public entities, which are subject to greater restrictions. Representatives from both programs reported that they received notice from the FAA in letters dated July 10. (The University of Missouri’s letter is posted online here.)

In a post on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Drone Journalism Lab blog, Matt Waite, the professor behind the program, said he will apply for a Certificate of Authorization to allow the program to move forward. Similarly, Scott Pham of the University of Missouri says the Missouri Drone Journalism Program will spend the fall semester researching and applying for a COA. Because of the nature of current COAs, which allow public operators to fly within a very specific set of restrictions, both programs say they will be limited in the types of stories they are able to cover. However, they are optimistic that a COA will be granted, with Waite noting in his post that “the people at the FAA with whom we’ve talked have been very helpful and matter-of-fact about getting one.”

In the meantime, they will limit their UAV use to indoor flights.

Read more here from the Columbia Daily Tribune, which first reported the news last week, and the Associated Press.

[ photo courtesy of the University of Missouri ]