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Sinclair Completes 25,000th Drone Flight

Sinclair Broadcast Group drones
(Image credit: Sinclair Broadcast Group)

BALTIMORE, M.D.—In a sign of how important drones have become to some local news organizations, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. has announced that the company’s Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) drone program recently completed its 25,000th logged flight.

Sinclair’s drone program, which launched in 2016, operates across 45 of its newsrooms nationwide, with 119 FAA Part 107 certified pilots and 195 trained visual observers across its stations.

The 25,000th flight took place on August 23rd in Dayton Ohio, as WRGT pilot Lee Furry and visual observer Ryan Segda recorded weather images of the Dayton area, which then aired in the station’s 6pm newscast.

“As newsgathering evolves, Sinclair continues to be at the forefront of the integration of technology within our newsrooms,” said Scott Livingston, senior vice president of news for Sinclair. “Using live drone footage, we are able to visually enhance breaking news, general news, weather and community coverage, allowing our newsrooms to tell a more dynamic story,” 

In July, WBMA, Sinclair’s ABC station in Birmingham Alabama used drones to cover the funeral of Congressman John Lewis as he made his final journey across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. 

Another example of unique drone footage usage came from KOMO in Seattle, as the station aired a documentary, “Seattle is Dying,” which was heavily influenced by drone video. This program has been viewed over 10 million times on multiple platforms and won a Regional Edward R. Murrow Award.

Sinclair and others also noted its safety record with no injuries in the 25,000 flights. 

"We commend Sinclair Broadcast Group on this exemplary UAS flight and safety achievement," noted Mickey H. Osterreicher, general counsel, National Press Photographers Association (NPPA). "As journalists we strive to be good stakeholders in the use of UAS for newsgathering and reporting. By reaching this milestone you have greatly contributed to public awareness of the benefits and safe use of drones in the national airspace.”

All Sinclair drone pilots are trained at Virginia Tech, part of the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership, an FAA-designated UAS test site, ensuring all drones are flown responsibly with pilots taking proper safety protocols.

“Operating in National airspace and working closely with the FAA, we take our drone program and pilot training very seriously and pride ourselves on our safety record of zero injuries. We promote a positive safety culture which includes written procedures and checklists for all flight operations, with safety always the top-priority,” said Jeff Rose, UAS chief pilot, Sinclair Broadcast Group.

Across the group, Sinclair deploys a variety of drone cameras, including DJI’s Inspire 2, Mavic Pro, Mavic 2 and Mavic mini.

George Winslow

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.