CNN Takes to the Skies

CNN’s due diligence to make unmanned aerial systems (UAS) in newsgathering a reality, and a safe one, is paying off. The news leader was just granted the first waiver by the Federal Aviation Association (FAA) to fly UAS over people, which is a pretty big deal. Even the new rules enacted by the FAA that make it easier to fly them commercially set limitations on how close they can fly to humans (500 feet).

The waiver follows CNN’s recent announcement of CNN AIR (CNN Aerial Imagery & Reporting), its first UAS dedicated news unit with two full-time operators. Aerial content will be used for all CNN platforms, as well as other entities within the Turner and Time Warner family.

The CNN team has worked hard to earn its UAS credibility. An early adopter of UAS in their coverage, CNN was among the first news organizations to explore how they can be used in newsgathering. As one of three industry partners to the FAA for the 2015 Pathfinder Program, CNN researched the visual line-of-sight operations over people in populated urban areas. And together with the Georgia Tech Research Institute, senior CNN staff tested potential safety issues in using UAS for newsgathering. The work they did actually helped set up the FAA regulatory foundation for UAS to be safely integrated into national air space.

The FAA waiver allows CNN to take UAS use to the next level and gives it an edge at bringing storytelling to life. “The use of UAS has huge promise for newsgatherers and consumers of news. The ability to fly over people is a huge step forward, and a necessary one as we cover the news where it happens,” said David Vigilante, senior vice president of Legal for CNN. “We look forward to continue to work in partnership with the FAA to move UAS policy boundaries forward for the industry."

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