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NPR Gets Grant to Develop Drones for News Gathering

Could drones be used for news gathering in the future?
(Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

First we had them for surveillance of hostiles and terrorists… now this:In a very short time, drone technology has snowballed from logical military to domestic spying to law enforcement. Will they now possibly be used for news gathering?

A Missouri radio station (KBIA-FM National Public Radio) has received a $25,000 grant  to start a “drone program” with the eventual hope of building units that can be used in news gathering. The money comes from the University of Missouri Information Technology Committee. Scott Pham, the content director for the station, defended the program this way (from Politico):

“A lot of people are predicting that drone technology is going to be really big when commercial and security applications are available. But why can’t citizens and journalists also use this technology to tell stories and discover more about the world around us?”

This news comes just days after the gossip website TMZ denied claims they sought permission from authorities in California to obtain their own drone. KBIA’s Pham had this comment about the drone idea, which could be interpreted as chilling:

“We believe that by getting journalists involved with drones early on, we’re not only giving our industry a leg up, but we might influence the development of the technology too… Journalism is just one application. I think we’ll be surprised at how many different industries can use these things.”

A recent Associated Press poll from October shows 44 percent of Americans favor allowing police forces to use drones in their community while 36 percent strongly oppose the idea. However, notice the question asked respondents about police use and nothing else. Pham’s comment earlier touches on a potential pandora’s box of ideas for which drones could be used.

Recently we told you here at of the animal rights group that was using a drone-like aircraft to videotape and spy on a private bird shoot in Pennsylvania.

The FAA plans to allow drone use over the skies of the U.S. starting in 2015. Many in Congress and other levels of the government — as well as the ACLU — have serious concerns over the privacy issues for citizens created by aircraft buzzing and hovering overhead, possibly recording their every movement.

Perhaps the public is aware of this, as gun sales have skyrocketed following the Nov. 6 election. Okay, that’s a stretch, but we have heard back from many listeners and readers of this website (and on our Facebook page) that the Pennsylvania hunters were justified in shooting down the drone invading their privacy with drone cameras.

We’re certainly not advocating shooting things out of the sky, but as drone technology continues to explode and we get closer to 2015, the privacy issue will only become a bigger question.



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