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This Could Be the Year for Drone Journalism

Poynter's Benjamin Mullin has a piece about how 2016 could be the breakout year for drone journalism because the FAA is slated to issue new rules about the commercial use of drones: "It will be a watershed development for American photojournalism writ large, one that will put relatively inexpensive aerial photography, videography and airborne sensors in play for journalists across the United States."

The most common use will be taking footage of land, especially during times of disaster. Currently, the FAA is allowing some media organizations to use drones, but their drone operators have to have pilot's licenses. Under the new rules, journalists and other commercial drone operators would be able to get an alternative licensure to a pilot's license in order to be approved to operate drones.

California Governor Vetoes Drone Privacy Bill

California Governor Jerry Brown has vetoed a bill that would have banned drones being flown lower than 350 feet above private property without permission, Wired's Klint Finley reports. In his veto message, Brown wrote that the bill "'could expose the occasional hobbyist and the FAA-approved commercial user alike to burdensome litigation and new causes of action.”'

Press Groups Ask California Governor to Veto Bill Limiting Drones

A coalition of media organizations have asked California Governor Jerry Brown to veto a bill that would make it illegal to fly drones less than 350 feet above private property "'without express permission of the person or entity with the legal authority to grant access or without legal authority,'" The Hill's David McCabe reports. The coalition said the law would impede newsgathering and violate the First Amendment.

Approval of Drone Data Collection Poses Privacy Questions

The Federal Aviation Administration has approved a company's request to operate 324 drones for "aerial data acquisition," which has prompted concerns from privacy advocates, Vice News' John Dyer reports. Jeramie Scott, national security counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center, told Dyer "'right now there are virtually no laws to address the commercial use of drones to collect massive amounts of data on the public.'"

Measure got an exemption from the FAA's current ban on commercial use of drones.

Dyer also notes that the rules the FAA are currently drafting to regulate drones don't address privacy and wouldn't mandate commercial drone operators disclose what data they're collecting.

California Legislators Approve Multiple Bills Restricting Drone Flights

The California Senate has just passed a bill that would restrict drones from being flown over wildfires, Los Angeles Times' Patrick McGreevy and Melanie Mason report. Other measures are being considered to restrict drone flights over prisons, schools and homes. For example, there is a bill on the governor's desk that would "criminalize the act of operating an unmanned aircraft system less than 350 feet above ground over private property without the consent of the property's owner."

FAA Will Clear Commercial Drones for Takeoff Within the Year

Federal Aviation Administration officials testified this week that they expect to finalize rules for commercial drone flights within the year, which is much faster than previous forecasts of the rules being finalized by the end of 2016 or the start of 2017, Reuters' David Morgan reports. He notes that American firms have been pressuring the FAA regulators to get the drone rules off the ground because of lost revenue.

Justice Department: When Cops Use Drones They Can't Violate Rights

The Justice Department has issued its first guidelines for the use of domestic drones by law enforcement, saying that the use of drones must not violate civil rights or the right to privacy, the Associated Press reports. The department said drones can't be used just to monitor protests and other activities protected by the constitution.

Nevada Legislators Mulling Drone Privacy Bill

Legislators in Nevada are considering a bill that would regulate drones, including the protection of privacy interests, the Associated Press' Riley Snyder reports. The bill would set "250 feet as the lowest level a drone can fly before trespassing, with some exceptions, and it requires a warrant for certain police observations by a drone on a private home," Snyder reports. The bill passed out of Assembly, but the Senate has not yet taken action.

FAA and Drone Industry Find Common Skies

The Federal Aviation Administration and the drone industry are finally starting to see eye to eye, The Washington Post's Matt McFarland reports. For example, the FAA now appears to be committed to testing if drones can be operated safely outside of the line of sight of operators, including by CNN. The cooperation between industry and the FAA is a change from when the governmental agency was highly criticized for missing deadlines for making commercial drone flights legal.


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