A Deeper Look into ‘Dronalism’

Although drones have been around for over a decade, they have become much more popular in recent years. While a majority of drone use is solely for recreational and personal use, there are numerous possibilities for journalism when it comes to this developing technology.

Aside from the playful aspect of drones, there are many practical uses for drones within journalism.

One of the major ways drones can be applied are in breaking news situations. Any time there has been a need for a news helicopter, there is an opportunity for progressive news organizations—like CNN—to replace it with a drone.


There are multiple facets of breaking news that can benefit from drone technology. One of the most important benefits is that drones are able to fly places that people cannot reach. For example, if there is a natural disaster taking place—such as flooding—a drone is able to hover over the wreckage safely, whereas a person may have to venture into dangerous areas.

Drones also allow for quick access to a scene. This can add great context to a developing story by giving an aerial shot.

Cost efficiency is another major benefit of replacing choppers with unmanned drones in the news industry. The amount of money that needs to be spent on flying a helicopter and paying a pilot can range from $350 to $500 per hour, which is insurmountable in comparison to flying a drone.

The price of drones can range anywhere from $13 to $32,000, however, on average journalists and news organizations could potentially save thousands a year by replacing news choppers with drones. And, for an individual to obtain their drone pilot’s license, it would only cost around $150. These numbers are one-time purchases that can help to add a great deal of valuable content to a news channel.

Some of the more complicated areas surrounding drone usage however, are the legal aspects. There are already many restrictions in place with where someone can and cannot fly a drone. For example, people are unable to fly their drones above 400 feet in the air, and they cannot fly over other people.

Additionally, drones have different rules and regulations for personal versus commercial use. However, once a journalist learns when and where they can or cannot fly their drone, it can become one of their most valuable storytelling tools.

Certain laws have been put in place to protect an individual’s right to privacy and safety. Although, a good journalist (not a paparazzo) would always be conscious of these safety and privacy regulations regardless of using a drone.

Journalists have been and will continue to be the watchdogs and the ‘fourth branch of government,’ giving the voice of the people, all while being unbiased and conducting themselves ethically. Therefore, when a new technology brings even more ethical questions into account, journalists may be one of the most qualified groups of people to know when and where are the appropriate occasions to use drones.

Drone shots, while super convenient to obtain, do not work in every journalistic situation; deciding when to use a drone shot to add to the story can take an experienced journalist and weeding through unnecessary bells and whistles is very important when telling a story.

Drones can be a great addition for journalists to use in feature stories. For example, Drone Films Project to showcase interesting people and places of the world. Since drones give any piece a more cinematic look, it can add a great deal of production value to a feature story that might have not had it before. Drone shots have the ability to make jaws drop and tend to leave people with a sense of awe; like the video below.

Many people also are intrigued by the abilities of drones. Drones are a great way for audiences to feel engaged to the stories they are watching. Since many people own drones for their own personal use, seeing drone shots used in a professional setting may make them more interested in watching the story. Drones give a more personal look at certain stories and can be great for evoking emotion.

When a new technology begins to become more popular, there will always be those that are willing to jump right in and embrace every aspect. However, on the contrary many people will find any flaw they can with the new technology if they are particularly disinclined to change, or be open-minded. Although those that who quick to embrace this rapidly growing technology will likely find themselves ahead of the curve, and with the advantage when drones inevitably become a major part of the way we tell stories in our future everyday lives.