News drone use sparks request to shun amateurs

Oct 30, 2013 at 01:03 am by Staff

Use of drones used to shoot video of Australia’s bushfires has prompted authorities to asked media not to use footage captured by amateur drones.

The NSW fire emergency has brought to a head the issue of controls on drones.

The NewspaperWorks’ NewsNow newsletter reports that news agencies have used drones equipped with high-definition cameras to capture footage of the devastation wrought by the bushfires.

The report says trained operators flew two six-kilogramme ‘multicopters’ around the fire-ravaged Springwood area on Friday.

The drones were operated by High Alpha Media, whose director, Ben Lodge says the craft can access “anywhere from ground level to 400 feet”.

“A helicopter can’t even get into those areas.”

The drones – each propelled by six rotors – are usually used to film TV commercials and programmes.

The bushfires represent one of the first times the drones have been used in newsgathering, in an exclusive partnership with national news agency Australian Associated Press, NewsNow says.

Lodge predicts drones will be a “gamechanger” for Australian news.

They are able to fly for 15 minutes at a time and withstand winds of up to 40 kph. Camera equipment – the company’s website lists Canon 7D, 5D Mark II/III and C300, Sony Nex-7 and FS100/FS700, and Red Scarlet among that which can be lifted – is stabilised with a pivoted gimbal. On the ground, a pilot controls the drone using two joysticks, while a cameraman directs the lens.

Australian civil aviation safety authority CASA has warned about the use of amateur drones in bushfire coverage, saying they could interfere with fire-fighting helicopters and planes, says the report. It has asked media outlets not to use footage captured by amateur drones.

It quotes Ben Lodge that High Alpha Media “always followed CASA regulations, which prohibited drones being used within three nautical miles of an airport, above 400ft, or near roads. He said the company’s drone operators were properly-accredited pilots”. AAP editor-in-chief Tony Gillies is quoted that the organisation supported the use of drones in newsgathering only where it was safe and in accordance with CASA regulations.

High Alpha Media says the Mikrokopters can fly at up to 60 kph. A 5.8GHz live downlink connects the equipment to a field monitor which can be “beyond visual sight”, with remote camera shutter activation control.

The company’s website says Lodge has more than 15 years industry experience, with more than 6000 hours of flying time in aircraft from helicopters to fixed-wing Vietnam ‘warbirds’ and Boeing airliners. “Ben applies the same disciplines associated with flying full size aircraft to operating the flying machines of High Alpha Media,” it says. A new 2013 showreel on the site displays some of their latest work.



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