The conversation of drones used to be reserved for a land and time far, far away. Rod Serling and Star Wars stuff. That day is here.
Drones that carry photo and video gear are portable, affordable (they start at around $1,000) fit in a backpack, are battery-powered and shoot incredible high-quality still and video images. You can build your own or buy one retail. Drones, like so much of our technology today, are in use and outside of the legislative curve.
How should they be used, who uses them, do they require an operator's licence, how many can fly in a defined airspace? There are dozens of questions about ethics and privacy.
The Hamilton Spectator has published still and video images taken using drone technology. One of the subjects was a flyover of the construction work at Tim Hortons field. We don't own one or employ an operator - instead the photos are coming to us as many other photos do - through freelancers, social media or companies and agencies who've employed people to take the photos for them. Earlier this year, The Spec wrote a story about the Ontario Provincial Police testing drone technology to capture images at accident scenes as a way to clear sites quicker.
See video flyover of The Hamilton Spec: Download Drone TheSpec
Yan Theoret is a Hamilton videographer. He is a camera operator and owns a drone. Last week he shot footage of the crippled Skyway Bridge (see pix below) after it was damaged by an alleged drunk truck driver. Yan stood below the bridge, piloted his drone up and around and shot footage which was used by CHCH TV after being legally vetted. Yan says there are many factors that a drone operator has to consider: Where are they piloting the vehicle from? Is it public land, federal land, municipal? Is the air space restricted, such as an airport? Can you get permission to take off from private property and shoot something is that is of public interest happening on another property - a fire, a crash, a crime scene, a sporting event?
Yan's drone is a $5,000 customized off-the-shelf model. It has a range of one kilometre up, about a kilometre out and can be in the air for 15 minutes. His drone, like others, gives us views that we haven't been able to traditionally access. We are a digital culture that wants more and better photos and video.
Yan is a drone pioneer in Hamilton. He is aware of the pros and cons and the larger conversations around drone use. He's advocating for a conversation about drones and says there should be regs and standards for drone pilots. He wants responsible drone use and says it's a tool that media will be using with increasing frequency. The Skyway Bridge crash is a good example. The story affected many, the economic damage is still being counted and there is undeniable public interest. Media needs to tell the story and show the damage to the bridge. The Spec commissioned an airplane and Spec photographer John Rennison took photos that showed the damage. Yan stood on the ground and piloted his drone (his pixs below). His images are incredible and detailed - you can count the rivets on the beams. There is no doubt using the drone is quicker, less expensive and extremely versatile. Yan is thinking about responsible use - we know others are not and won't and it's only a matter of time when we write about a drone crash, or competing drones at site or unethical use of a drone to capture images.
For media, this technology is impressive and will serve the public interest with better photo and video storytelling.
For drones, the when is here. Now it's a matter of how.
SKYWAY BRIDGE PHOTOS COURTESY OF YAN THEORET: