WMUR-TV Says FAA Drone Rules Preclude ENG

CNN received FAA clearance in January to test drones for newsgathering.

WASHINGTON—Proposed rules for the commercial use of drones renders them useless for newsgathering, WMUR-TV General Manager Jeff Bartlett told Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) chair of the Aviation Operations, Safety and Security Subcommittee before a hearing held Tuesday to access the use of unmanned aircraft systems. The Federal Aviation Administration recently released proposed rules for UAS.

“The FAA’s current rules and proposed ban on flight over people, requirement of visual line of sight and restriction on nighttime flying, effectively prohibit broadcasters from using UAS for newsgathering,” he wrote to Ayotte in a letter dated March 20.

The hearing was scheduled for March 24 with witnesses from the Federal Aviation Administration and other governing agencies, the Brookings Institution, Amazon and the Farm Bureau. None represented broadcasters or other newsgathering operations.

WMUR is the Hearst-owned ABC and MeTV affiliate licensed for the Manchester, N.H., market. Bartlett said the station “plays an important role in New Hampshire by reporting breaking news, severe weather and emergency situations.”

“Allowing broadcast use of UAS would give us safer, more cost-efficient and better newsgathering, which would strengthen and enhance our role as a lifeline in the communities we serve,” he said. “The ability of UAS to cover dangerous, remote and expansive areas beyond where traditional photographers can easily reach would allow broadcast journalist to overcome logistical hurdles and capture scenes that previously would have put their lives in danger. In addition, the use of UAS is much less expensive compared to traditional aerial footage shot from helicopters, helping to support an overall expansion of newsgathering.”

Bartlett said Congress and the FAA should develop safety and guidelines specifically for newsgathering.

“The results would be safer, improved and expanded news coverage to the communities we serve,” he said.

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