Boom in journalist drone use flies into legal obstacles

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PARIS (AFP) – Flying over the flaming barricades of the Maidan protests in Kiev, the camps of Auschwitz or hurtling down a ski slope — drones have become a vital tool for cameramen, but they are increasingly running into legal and practicalobstacles.

Many news networks such as the BBC, Russia Today and France s TF1 have bought their own drones in recent years and trained their cameramen to become remote-control pilots.

“We ve used them all over the world, from Togo, for a report about the Aral Sea, to the Brazilian rain forests,” said Thomas Hannen, a producer at the BBC World Service.

Simple to use and able to capture views way out of the reach of traditional technology, drones are also increasingly affordable, with basic models starting at just a few hundred euros (dollars).

That compares with shelling out some 20,000 euros a day to get helicopter shots, said Pierre Fourtillan, head of Aliothcam, a French business that specialises in aerial photography.

Although some shots are still better achieved with a cameraman in a helicopter, drones provide some novel options.

“We can kiss the rooftops and sides of buildings,” enthused Nicolas Charbonneau, an assistant director at TF1.

Storms, avalanches and traffic jams have all become filmable in a way that would have been impossible just a few years ago, he added, and the station is keen to use them more for extreme sports.

Drones have also made it easier to cover hard news topics.

“They enable us to tell stories that would be out of reach, particularly when there are safety concerns, for example in war zones or natural disasters,” said Lizzie Phelan, a journalist at Russia Today, which made pioneering use of drones to cover the Ferguson riots in the United States last year.

2015-03-08

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