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June 13, 2015 8:48 am  #1

Radio Stations are Adopting Drones

(Via TVTechnology)

ROCHESTER, N.Y.—There are indeed a handful of radio people working hard to stay ahead of the UAV curve. It was no surprise, for instance, to look a row ahead at one drone session during the NAB Show and see someone from WTOP-FM in Washington, Hubbard’s all-news station, which prides itself on staying at the technological cutting edge.

“We consider ourselves to be more of a multiplatform news organization instead of just a radio station,” said Brian Oliger, WTOP’s manager of broadcast and news technology. “And so we’re looking from a digital perspective, can we use it on the Web and on other digital platforms?” That’s likely to mean lots of streaming video on WTOP’s website and mobile apps.

On the West Coast, KFI-AM has made an even bigger commitment to UAVs. “We jumped all in,” said Assistant PD Neil Saavedra of the iHeart talker’s decision to buy drones for each of its field reporters.

That’s a particularly gutsy move to make right now: As far as the FAA is concerned, there remains an official prohibition on any commercial use of UAVs. But under heavy pressure from all sorts of potential commercial users, including real estate agents, farmers and, yes, broadcasters, the FAA has already issued a handful of waivers and plans to modify its rules for all users as early as 2016, allowing at least some commercial drone activity to get underway.

“One of the best things you can do as a station is to train your people now so that when the FAA says you’re ready, you’re ready to go,” said Ron Futrell of ArrowData, one of the presenters at an all-day “UAVs in Broadcast” session at the NAB Show.

That’s just what Saavedra is doing as the captain of KFI’s nascent drone team. Until his reporters can go out and use drones at work, they’re learning the nuances of UAV operation through a series of training sessions.

“It’s cool to see our reporters already thinking about this,” Saavedra said. “They come back to us, saying, ‘Hey, I was out at this story, and all I could think about was how I would cover it with a drone.’” In addition to learning the mechanics of flying, KFI’s reporters are also being trained in the art of videography, so they can make the most of their new viewpoints.

“We think so much about radio, we’ve always been about the word picture, but that’s not the case now,” Saavedra said. For KFI, that could mean even greater versatility than its TV competitors now enjoy with their ubiquitous news helicopters. “You’ve got the ground perspective and the 800-foot [helicopter] perspective, and oftentimes it’s that middle perspective that we’re missing. For safety reasons, we’d love to be able to push in a little closer without putting our reporters in harm’s way.”
As rules for UAVs in newsgathering are developed, Saavedra said KFI is trying hard to be a part of that process. The station meets regularly with aviation experts from the Los Angeles Police Department and other area agencies. “They’ve been incredibly supportive because they want us to write the book on how it’s used,” Saavedra said.

In a city where drones are almost certain to become a part of the tool chest for the paparazzi, privacy concerns are also looming large. “It’ll be like locusts out here,” Saavedra said. “That’s why we want to find that balance.”


Madness takes its toll.  Please have exact change.