How the Daily Herald uses drones for news coverage
When do you use drones for news coverage and where can you fly them? How high do they go? How fast? What's their camera and video resolution? How long does their battery last? And what about privacy?
Those were among myriad questions that Daily Herald Senior Director of Visual Journalism Jeff Knox answered Wednesday night, when he gave a drone demonstration and presentation open to the community at Forest View Educational Center in Arlington Heights.
It was the second part of the Facts Matter series presented by the Daily Herald and Northwest Suburban High School District 214.
The Daily Herald has used video and photography from its six DJI Mavic Pro drones for a plethora of coverage, from breaking news to feature and explanatory stories, Knox said.
Some examples: images of the "Troll Hunt" exhibit at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle; a house explosion in Marengo; the funeral procession for a fallen state trooper; and a story about dam removal on the Fox River.
Drone video can be set up to livestream on dailyherald.com.
Safety is the No. 1 priority, Knox said. "If we can't fly safely, we won't fly."
That means not flying when it's too windy, but also not interfering with medical Flight for Life operations or risky law enforcement operations journalists might encounter as part of news coverage, Knox said. And always complying with drone rules prescribed by the Federal Aviation Administration, he said.
"We follow the rules to the letter. We don't waver from them at all," he said.
That was reassuring to Linda Smedberg of Arlington Heights. "I was impressed with the strict rules that are being followed," she said.
There are two types of drone pilots: hobbyists who use drones for recreational purposes and commercial pilots who profit from their drone photos or videos. Both must register with the FAA but only commercial pilots require certification.
Knox and five photographers at the Daily Herald are certified by the FAA, which requires passing an intensive 60-question test and recertification every two years.
Rules for both hobbyists and commercial pilots include: flying at a maximum 400 feet above ground; not flying over people; not flying at night; keeping drones within sight; and not flying in restricted airspace -- such as airports and major sporting events -- unless the FAA has granted a waiver for authorization.
Many people have privacy concerns about drone usage, Knox acknowledged. However, drones are much like flying with a wide-angle lens, meaning they can get up-close images only if they get close. People can complain about improper drone usage to the FAA and local police, he said.
As for the ethics of getting drone shots, Knox said, "Our basic guideline is if we can't shoot it on the ground, ethically speaking, we're not going to shoot it from the air."
Arlington Heights resident Bob Lippold, who owns a drone, said he enjoyed the presentation. "There are so many things you can use it for," he said.
Other upcoming free programs are:
• Facts Matter: Fake or Real? How to Know What to Trust in Campaign Season, 7-8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16, at the Forest View Educational Center, 121 S. Goebbert Road, Arlington Heights.
• Facts Matter: Editing for Politics, 7-8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 6, at the Forest View Educational Center, 121 S. Goebbert Road, Arlington Heights.
The presentations are free and open to the public, though attendees should register online at https://bit.ly/DHFactsMatter2019 or by calling (847) 718-7700.