CNN Launches Drone Reporting Division

Expendables Drone Watermarked - H 2014
Phil Bray Courtesy of Millenium Films

Expendables Drone Watermarked - H 2014

The FAA issued new rules in June on professional drone use.

CNN is wasting no time taking advantage of the Federal Aviation Administration's new rules on commercial drone use.

The cable news network is launching a drone division this week, comprising a new unmanned aerial vehicle and two dedicated staff members, to assist in news-gathering efforts.

"CNN will have a designated Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) unit with two full-time UAS operators to fully integrate aerial imagery and reporting across all CNN networks and platforms, along with Turner Broadcasting and Time Warner entities," the company said in a statement released Thursday.

This isn't the first time the network has used drones to augment their reporting. The Republican and Democratic nominating conventions, Louisiana flood sites and Flint, Michigan, water contamination zones all had drones contracted by CNN flying overhead. But the Atlanta-based cable channel thinks the technology is worth a long-term investment.

"In 2015, CNN was selected by the FAA as one of the first three industry 'Pathfinders' to develop safe uses of UAS in news gathering," the statement said. "CNN has shared data and research that has helped formulate a framework for various types of UAS to be safely integrated into the national air space and continues to work to expand the safe and legal operation of UAS in news gathering."

The FAA issued new rules for drones in June that went into effect this week. The rules pertain to drones weighing fewer than 55 pounds and conducting non-hobbyist operations, which means they're of particular importance to the film and television industries.

The rules specify that drones must be kept within the line of sight of their operators, a significant creative limitation. Drones have to have anti-collision lights. Flying over people is still not allowed.

The photographic possibilities afforded by the new technology continue to excite filmmakers and documentarians.

"You're seeing drone camera work get more and more common because it's so affordable," Max Bohichik, a commercial and music video director, told The Hollywood Reporter. "But who knows, this might make it less special over time."

A CNN rep told THR that further regulations are expected this month.