What is Drone journalism?

Drone journalism, also known as unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) journalism or aerial journalism, is the use of drones to capture and transmit newsworthy video and still images. Drone journalism allows journalists to capture footage and images from a unique perspective, providing a new angle on stories and giving viewers a better understanding of the events being covered. Drone journalism has been used to cover a wide range of events, including natural disasters, sporting events, protests, and wars. While drone journalism has the potential to revolutionise the way we consume and produce news, it has also raised concerns about privacy and safety. 

Drone journalism is essential because it enables journalists to record photographs and video from a distinctive viewpoint, adding a fresh perspective to stories and enhancing viewers’ comprehension of the events being reported. Drone journalism may be required for a number of specialised reasons, including:

  1. Cost: Operating drones is frequently less expensive than using traditional news gathering tools like helicopters. As a result, journalists may acquire video and photos without having to pay the hefty fees involved with using more conventional techniques. Drones are often cheaper to operate than traditional news gathering equipment, such as helicopters. This means that journalists can gather footage and images without incurring the high costs associated with more traditional methods. Drones can be used to cover events and stories that are located in remote or hard-to-reach areas, which can reduce the need for journalists to travel long distances. This can help to reduce travel costs and increase efficiency. 
  2. Safety: Without endangering human life, drones may be used to cover hazardous or difficult-to-reach areas. By enabling journalists to cover hazardous or difficult-to-reach situations without endangering human lives, drones can contribute to journalistic safety. Drones may be used to report on natural catastrophes like earthquakes, hurricanes, and wildfires without putting reporters in danger by having them cover these events from the ground up. Without placing journalists in risk, drones may be used to cover dangerous locations like war zones. Additionally, drones may be used to record airborne video and photos without a pilot or other crew members present, lowering the possibility of accidents or fatalities while news gathering.
  3. Rapid drone deployment enables journalists to record film and take pictures in real time. Drones can be deployed quickly, allowing journalists to capture footage and images in real-time. This can be especially useful in breaking news situations where speed is of the essence. Drones can be equipped with sensors and other technology that can gather data and transmit it in real-time. This can allow journalists to collect and analyse data more quickly and efficiently.
  4. Drones can enter regions that may be off-limits to the public or media, such as combat or disaster zones. Drones can improve accessibility in journalism by allowing journalists to access locations that may be restricted to journalists or the general public, such as disaster areas or conflict zones. Drones can also provide access to hard-to-reach locations, such as the tops of buildings or inside industrial facilities, which may be difficult or impossible for journalists to access otherwise.
  5. Drones are versatile and may be used for a variety of tasks, such as live streaming, data collecting, and aerial photography and filmmaking.

Overall, drone journalism has the potential to give news consumers a more thorough and immersive experience while also enabling journalists to cover stories in previously impractical ways.

How drones are supporting journalism today?

Natural disasters

Drone testing for search and rescue efforts and accessing damage caused by Hurricane Harvey

During Hurricane Harvey in 2017, a team from the Drone Journalism Laboratory at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln used drones to capture footage of the storm’s impact on the Houston area. The team worked with local news outlets, including the Houston Chronicle, to provide aerial footage of the flooding caused by the hurricane.

Drones were able to fly over flooded areas and provide a bird’s eye view of the damage, showing neighbourhoods and streets submerged in water. This footage helped to give viewers a sense of the scale of the flooding and the severity of the damage caused by the storm. The team also flew drones over several key landmarks in the area such as the Buffalo Bayou, the city’s major waterway and provided an overview of how the water level rose and how it impacted the city.

 The use of drones for news gathering during Hurricane Harvey highlighted the potential for the technology to provide unique and valuable perspectives for news coverage of natural disasters. Drones can quickly access areas that may be inaccessible to reporters on the ground, and can provide aerial footage that can be used to tell the story of a disaster in a more comprehensive way.

Protests coverage

The Hong Kong pro-democracy protests in 2019 saw widespread use of drones by journalists to capture footage of the demonstrations and the police response. The use of drones allowed journalists to document the size and scope of the protests, as well as the actions of police and protesters.

Drones were used to fly over the protests and capture aerial footage of the crowds, providing a sense of the scale of the demonstrations. They also allowed journalists to capture footage of the police response, including the use of tear gas and water cannons to disperse crowds. Additionally, it also helped to document the police’s positioning, the protestors’ route and the crowd density, which provided valuable information for the analysis of the protests.

The use of drones in the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests highlights the potential of the technology for covering events in a public space. Drones allow journalists to provide a unique perspective on events and to capture footage that would be difficult or impossible to obtain otherwise. It also demonstrated the potential of drones to document crucial information of events and also to be a tool for citizen journalism as well.


During the 2018 wildfires in California, drones were used by journalists to document the fires and the damage they caused. The use of drones provided aerial footage that would have been difficult or impossible to obtain otherwise, giving people a unique perspective on the fires and the destruction they caused.

Drones like the MQ-9 reapers and DJI M210 drones were used to capture images of the wildfires as they spread, including footage of homes and buildings being consumed by the flames. They also captured the scale of the disaster, providing a bird’s-eye view of the extent of the destruction.

Additionally, Drones were also used by firefighters to identify hotspots, monitor the progression of the fires, and to track the movement of the fire and plan for evacuation. It helped them in creating a map of the fire that was more accurate and timely. Due to their ability to access hard-to-reach areas, drones also helped in search and rescue missions. They were used to survey the damage and identify any survivors who might be trapped in the rubble of burned-out buildings. Overall, Drone journalism played a crucial role in providing real-time information during the wildfires, and helped in providing an accurate and detailed account of the incident to the public.

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