MDJ Starter Kit: The Decision Generator

Welcome to the Missouri Drone Journalism Start-up Kit! This kit is designed to aid businesses considering implementing drone piloting into their business practices. Although this kit is primarily for newsrooms, the information presented in the kit’s various sections can be applied to any commercial drone usage. Let’s get started! Meet the Decision Generator, a simple tool for making sure that you’re making good decisions before the drone is in the air. 

The Law

  • Will you be within the limitations set by Section 107?
  • Will you be breaking potential laws as understood by common journalism practices – right to privacy, free speech limitations, etc.

The Airspace

  • What’s the classification of the area you’re trying to shoot? (how close to an airport?)
  • If close (5-10 miles, normally) to an airport, do you have authorization/waiver?
  • Are you within any Alert Areas, MOAs, or other specialized airspaces?

The Ethics

  • Safety
  • Privacy
  • Sanctity of public spaces?

The Equipment

  • Is everything in good repair?
  • Are there any necessary updates to make before going in the field?
  • Have you logged any maintenance/equipment add-ons?

The Station’s Mission Rules

  • Weather
  • Newsworthiness
  • Necessity of drone usage
  • Anything else decided by your individual newsroom



MDJ Starter Kit: Flight Logs



Keeping track of drones on paper is important. Not only does it help with creating maintenance plans, but if there is a legal dispute, having receipts will help your case enormously. In this section, the reader can find a few different ways to approach flight logs and maintenance plans.


Flight Logs:


While creating flight logs is always a good idea, it can create a hassle for users and fleet managers. There might be multiple drones that need to be maintained and logged at different times. The good old-fashioned way is to use Excel sheets. If you’ve never used Excel before, a template might look like this:




This will allow the pilot and supervisor to sort categories to find data more easily. For instance, how many flight hours does drone A have? If this is the best policy for the pilot and manager, be sure to keep track of time in the air for the pilot, how much airtime this drone has had, how many times that particularly battery has been used and any unexpected bumps or bruises accrued in that day’s flight. There are also paper logs available on Amazon, and any number of templates provided by really experienced drone pilots. Choosing a template is a matter of convenience and need for the pilot. Some templates allow for flight planning, others are very sparse and include only minimal detail. However, this opens up the field for human error. In addition, we are in the age of technology, and technology has provided an answer:


AirData: Easy fleet syncing with DJI products (unfortunately, this is only available for DJI products at this time), keeps track of data on battery life, charges held, time spent in the air, drone error warnings, and geographic use all sortable by pilot and drone.


KittyHawk: An iOS app that allows a single pilot to check airspace, weather, and TFRs in the area, and enables easy switching between drones when logging flights via timer or manually.

There are a lot of options for flight logs. These are just a few; many more can be found with a Google search. The idea is that you use them. By logging flights, not only will pilots be able to monitor the status and problems with their drones, but also keep receipts for experienced flight hours.




Maintenance can then be determined according to flight logs, and be integrated into record-keeping processes. How many propellers are used a year? At what rate are batteries being burned out? This sort of record keeping will also help any budgetary decisions made by the department. The FAA dictates all maintenance and repairs should be made according to the drone manufacturer’s guidance. Until then, it’s best to keep this in mind:

 Batteries will keep a charge for a week, before depreciating in power as a safety measure. If being stored for a long period of time, they should be stored in Li-Po safe bags, in case of fire.

Drones themselves should have designated containers to keep them free from damage in transit. If drones get dusty or fly in environments with dirty air, clean them with pressurized air-dusters from the hardware store, with a microfiber cloth, or with plastic-safe cleaning supplies.

Keep track of how many propellers are used and how many spares there are in case of accidents.

DJI, a major drone manufacturer, has also put out a guide on drone maintenance. As with any product, regular cleaning and care will extend the life of the drone. If problems arise, defer to manufacturer guidance. If a drone needs more intensive repair, it’s best to let the manufacturer fix the problem. Often, tinkering with it yourself will void the warranty.  


MDJ Starter Kit: The business decision to buy a drone


While not many newsrooms or media companies would need to plan ahead for responsibility hierarchies for their drones, those that do have a lot of decisions to make. This section is intended to help guide those decisions to help create the best possible system of accountability.

Things to consider before buying a drone (if you think you’ll need a hierarchy of accountability):

Is this something you’re going to use more than once for profit? If not, buying a cheaper model closer to obsolescence isn’t going to be a problem. If so, it makes more financial sense to invest in a more expensive or better quality drone with a longer period of depreciation. Different drone models come out at different rates, with some drone models being updated every six months, and others being updated on a yearly basis. Research which model would make the most sense as a business investment for your company, and keep in mind that the newsroom will probably want to update every two years.

Are you willing to invest in getting a pilot’s license as well, which will take time and cost $150? If not, don’t buy a drone, because you can’t even use it for your business legally without being FAA certified. Are you financially in a place to replace drone parts as they break? Propellers are cheap. Propeller motors are not. If these questions are leaning towards “no,” there are lots of drone contractors that will be happy to work with you. You can check to see if they’re fully licenced here:

Integrating drones into a business hierarchy

Newsrooms or startups of twenty people or less may not need to think about this, but if a large company is looking to integrate drones into their regular production, there should be a delineated chain of command between the pilot and supervisor.

A company might have multiple partners or subsidies, making for a more complicated system of accountability. This might look like a media conglomerate or sister newsrooms. Use an independent drone department that floats between departments, overseen by those higher than the newsrooms they are essentially rented out to. Drone usage and proper maintenance lies with the department itself.

A single company with different production departments might also decide to come up with a system of accountability. This might look like a real estate agency with a few agents or a single newsroom. Drones might be consolidated into the photography or video production department directly, overseen by the department manager, who also ensures proper drone usage and maintenance.

A small company, such as a start-up that works remotely, would require more consistency. Each branch or department should have a localized drone operator, provided it makes economic sense.


MDJ Starter Kit: Drones and laws


Newsrooms using drones for newsgathering and aerial footage use will fall under the direction of FAA Part 107. This guide will focus on the laws and regulations put in place by the FAA under Part 107.



Registering Drones

All drones weighing over .55 pounds must be registered by their owner at the FAADroneZone website. The cost of registration is $5 each, and the registration is valid 3 years.


Once the registration is completed, the FAA will provide a Registration Number beginning with the letters “FA.” This registration MUST be written somewhere on the drone’s body in a place that is easily visible. This may be on the exterior of the drone, or inside the battery compartment.


FAA Remote Pilot Certificate

The FAA requires all drone pilots who plan to use drones for commercial purposes to take an aptitude test and receive a Remote Pilot Certification. This certification test must be taken at a designated testing center, and the cost for each attempt is $150. Find a complete list of designated testing centers on the FAA’s website.

According to the FAA, pilots will be tested on the following factors:

  • Applicable regulations relating to small unmanned aircraft system rating privileges, limitations, and flight operation
  • Airspace classification and operating requirements, and flight restrictions affecting small unmanned aircraft operation
  • Aviation weather sources and effects of weather on small unmanned aircraft performance
  • Small unmanned aircraft loading and performance
  • Emergency procedures
  • Crew resource management
  • Radio communication procedures
  • Determining the performance of small unmanned aircraft
  • Physiological effects of drugs and alcohol
  • Aeronautical decision-making and judgment
  • Airport operations
  • Maintenance and preflight inspection procedures


Pilots must score an 80 percent or higher on the examination in order to receive their Remote Pilot’s Certificate. Once they’ve passed the examination, a pilot must submit FAA Form 8710-13 to complete their registration and receive their full certification as a Remote Pilot.

This certification is valid for 2 years, after which the pilot must re-test with the FAA.


The FAA has set a number of basic guidelines for drone operation by 107-certified pilots:

  • Pilots are only permitted to fly during civil twilight (30 minutes before local, official sunrise or 30 minutes after local, official sunset) and daylight.
  • Pilots must operate their drones at or below 400 feet, unless otherwise approved by the FAA.
  • Pilots must all have 500 feet of cloud clearance above their drone.
  • There must be a minimum visibility of 3 statute miles
  • Drones must stay within the visual-line-of-sight for the Remote Pilot at all times, unless otherwise approved by the FAA.
  • Pilots are not permitted to fly a drone over people.
  • Drones may not be operated from a moving aircraft
  • Drones may only be operated from a moving vehicle in a sparsely populated area.
  • Pilots may only fly drones in Class G airspace without a waiver.
  • Pilots MUST give way to other aircraft



Drone pilots flying under Part 107 are subject to the guidelines of designated airspaces. The Pilot in Command is responsible for checking the airspace and acquiring the appropriate waivers. Pilots must also get express permission from air traffic control if flying within controlled air space. 

Class A

Class A cannot be reached by drone pilots. It reaches from 18,000 feet to 60,000 feet.


Class B

Class B airspace is the airspace immediately surrounding major airports, and stretches from the ground to 10,000 feet. It’s shaped like a funnel, with the widest area covered at the top of the airspace, and with progressively smaller circles at designated altitudes. These altitudes can be found on a VFR map. Pilots planning to fly in these areas MUST get a waiver and MUST notify air traffic control.


Class B airspace is represented by a solid blue line encompassing the region.


Class C

Class C airspace is similar in shape to the Class B airspace. The airspace covers mid-sized airports, is funnel-shaped, and stretches from the surface up to 4,000 feet. At its widest, Class C is 10 miles in radius, and around the airport at the surface, its radius is 5 miles. Pilots planning to fly in these areas MUST get a waiver and MUST notify air traffic control.


Class C airspace is represented by a solid magenta line encompassing the region.


Class D

Class D airspace is around the smallest airports, and is a cylindrical region with a radius of 4 miles, and the maximum altitude of the airspace will be listed on a VFR map. Pilots planning to fly in these areas MUST get a waiver and MUST notify air traffic control.


Class D airspace is represented by a dotted blue line encompassing the region.


Class E

Class E airspace is the layer of air between Class G and Class A airspace. It’s lower limit is determined by Class G, and can range from the surface to 1200 feet. It’s upper limit stops at Class A airspace, at 18,000 feet. Pilots planning to fly in these areas MUST get a waiver and MUST notify air traffic control.


Class E airspace that begins at the surface is represented by a dotted magenta line encompassing the region.

Class E airspace that begins at 700 feet is represented by a gradient blue line encompassing the region.

Class E airspace that begins at 1200 feet is represented by a gradient magenta line encompassing the region.


Class G

Class G airspace stretches from the surface to either 700 feet or 1200 feet, and is open for pilots to fly during daylight hours and during civil twilight. Pilots should check the FAA’s B4UFLY app in order to ensure the airspace is clear for flight.


Temporary Flight Restrictions

Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) are put in place when an important figure or event is happening in the region. It will be represented by a solid red line encompassing the area, and pilots are NOT to fly within its boundaries, or they will be subject to hefty fines from the FAA and possibly loss of their Remote Pilot’s Certificate.



If a stadium is hosting an event and can seat more than 30,000 people, a Temporary Flight Restriction will be put in place an hour before the event and will last until an hour after the event. Pilots are not allowed to fly within its boundaries, and will be subject to fines and detainment if they choose to do so.


Special Use Airspace

Special Use Airspace are regions that are more specifically controlled by the FAA or the entity that owns them. The FAA designates these regions as Special Use Airspace:

  • Prohibited areas

Flight of any aircraft is prohibited in these areas

  • Restricted areas

Restricted areas are regions that have been deemed hazardous for pilots, and as such, pilots are required to contact the FAA or the entity who owns the region to get approval before flying

  • Warning areas – Located over water

Warning areas are like Restricted areas, but they are over water. Pilots should get approval from the FAA or the entity who owns the region before flying.

  • Military operation areas (MOAs)

Military Operating Areas are regions where military activity is common. It may not always be active, so pilots should get approval from air traffic control before flying

  • Alert areas

Alert Areas contain an unusual type of air activity, such as pilot training, and pilots can fly in these areas without approval, but should exercise extra caution.

  • Controlled firing areas (CFAs)

Controlled Firing Areas are regions that contain activities that might be hazardous to aircrafts. Pilots are allowed to fly in these areas because a lookout will inform the entity to cease activities and give way for the aircraft.


Military Training Routes (MTRs)

Military Training Routes are places where military aircraft can practice flying, and will be marked on a VFR map as a grey line with a label beginning with “VR” followed by a number. If the number is three digits, then the aircraft will be operating above 1,500 feet. If the number is four digits, then the aircraft will be operating under 1,500 feet. Pilots should exercise caution in these areas, and give way to any aircraft.



The FAA requires pilots to report an accident if it causes more than $500 in damage to anything other than the drone itself, or results in any injury to a person that results in loss of consciousness or an overnight stay in the hospital. Pilots will have 10 days to report the incident to the FAA.

MDJ Starter Kit: Insurance

Insurance is fun right? Not exactly. But you’ll love insurance when you crash your drone and don’t have to file for bankruptcy. Although you don’t need a policy to fly commercially in the U.S. (but you do in Canada), your wallet and your therapist will thank you for getting one. Insurance can get complex, and some of this information may not be applicable to everyone. However, anyone serious about incorporating drone’s into their business model should at least invest some time into talking about best insurance practices.

Types of Insurance

Liability insurance

  • Base policy
  • Covers property damage claims and bodily injury claims
    • Basically, if you crash into something that’s not yours, you will have to pay for it. Liability insurance will have you covered.
  • Must have before adding any other insurance


Hull insurance

  • Covers any damage to the drone
    • Basically, if you crash at all, you can insure the actual drone so that you don’t have to pay for repairs to get back up in the air.
    • By the way, these repairs can be just as expensive as the drone itself.
  • Policy’s monetary amount must be accurate to the value of the craft
    • This will decline over time, just like any other vehicle.
  • Be aware of deductibles
    • Expect 5-10% of value


Payload insurance

  • Covers equipment added to the hull of the UAV
    • Added to an insurance policy separately
    • Must be accurate to the value of the equipment
  • Deductibles will likely be the same as hull insurance


Ground Equipment insurance

  • Covers anything added to the operation from a control standpoint
    • Laptops, controllers, sensors, etc.
  • Similar rules like value of equipment and deductibles


Non-owned insurance

  • If you’re renting/leasing/some other form of using a drone you don’t own
  • Non-owned can be applied to hull, payload and ground equipment


Personal injury insurance

  • Covers damages due to personal injury
    • Protect against slander, libel, violation of privacy and copyright infringement claims while using your drone

Costs and Types

Each policy will vary due to what you have covered up to what monetary value. If you are a larger company and plan on flying a lot, you probably want a more comprehensive plan. These plans will also give you more freedom as to when and where you can fly. Consider all of your equipment and how often you fly. If you are a smaller company or fly infrequently, perhaps a yearly plan does not make sense with your budget. Luckily, you have options.

    • Insurance Companies: Comprehensive Plans
      • Here is a list of companies that will give you drone insurance policies.
      • A commercial insurance policy for a DJI Phantom 4 or Yuneec Typhoon H covering liability up to $1 million can run as little as $600-$800 a year
      • Pros: Lots of types of insurance, lots of freedom
      • Cons: Can be expensive and complicated
    • Verifly: Insurance on demand – Get the app
      • This app provides liability insurance on demand
      • As little as $10/hour of flight depending on the set parameters


  • Pros: Very cost effective, quick and easy
  • Cons: Strict time and space parameters, only covers liability


Can you lose your insurance?

Apparently so. Here are some tips to make sure this doesn’t happen.

  • Log flights
  • Be able to prove what happened in an accident with flight data
  • Register your drone and attach the correct ID number to its hull
  • Log battery cycles and all equipment changes
  • Practice good flying


Overall, you can decide how complicated you want your drone insurance to be. However, every company should invest in some form of drone insurance. Without it, you could hurt both your drone and your wallet.


Information on this page comes from UAV Coach and Verifly.

MDJ Starter Kit: Risks and accidents

Risk Assessment

You’ve done your preflight checklist and you’re well within the law to fly the drone. Unfortunately, the rules and regulations are not the only things to consider. You also must think about the potential risks you are willing to take, or not take, in order to ensure a safe flight. The majority of drone-related accidents occur because of reckless flying. Here are some ways, derived from the FAA’s pilot handbook, to make sure the flight team takes as few risks as possible.


Acronyms that save lives (and drones)

These three acronyms will help you isolate any risks imposed by the pilot and flight team and the mission, and will give you the steps react mid-flight. Plus, they’re directly out of the FAA’s Pilot’s Handbook for Aeronautical Knowledge, and they will be on the 107 test. Discuss these with your team and boss to come up with mission rules specified to your situation.


IMSAFE – Risks imposed by the pilot and flight team

  • Illness: Is any member of the flight team compromised by sickness?
  • Medication: Is any member of the flight team taking medicine that could influence reaction time or clarity of mind?
  • Stress: How does each individual team member react to high-stress situations? What extra stress factors are imposed by the timing of the mission or the mission itself?
  • Alcohol: Has anyone recently ingested alcohol? Eight hours from bottle to throttle.
  • Fatigue: Is anyone sleep deprived?
  • Eating: Are there dietary circumstances that could prevent a team member from performing vital duties?

PAVE – Risks imposed by the mission

  • Pilot: This is covered by “IMSAFE”
  • Aircraft: Does your drone have the battery power, horsepower, or maneuverability to complete the mission? Is the craft in good physical condition with no damage to the rotors, hull, batteries or landing gear? Are there any necessary updates?
  • Environment: What obstacles might you face based on the weather and physical structures around you? Certain surfaces, geographical features or structures can create variation in air temperature, direction and speed that could be risky for flight.
  • External: Are there other factors that could come into play during the mission? Think about possible hazards like other aircraft and intrusion of foot traffic below the operation.

3 Ps – In-flight reaction steps

  • Perceive: Keep constant eyes on the drone or on the camera monitor. Vigilance is key. Try to predict potential hazards before they negatively unfold.
  • Process: When an issue arises, determine the safest path. Even if it breaks an FAA regulation or interrupts a shot, safety is always number one.
  • Perform: Employ the safest maneuver as soon as you determine what it is. There is always a chance to land and regroup if the drone is still intact. Then, go back to perceiving. This should be an endless cycle.


Behaviors that increase risk

A large part of reckless flying comes simply from the attitude of the pilot. The following psychological behaviors are the most common attitudes to ward against.


  • Anti-Authority: This behavior fights against being told what to do. The pilot will be tempted to ignore or do the opposite of commercial regulations or advice from others. All commercial drone pilots must be rule followers.
  • Impulsivity: This behavior is quick to make decisions without proper risk assessment. A pilot must be level-headed in crises, which comes from experience and practice.
  • Invulnerability: This behavior fuels a pilot’s belief that an accident will not happen to him or her. Understanding real life situations and learning from the mistakes of other pilots can help decrease this attitude. A pilot must be grounded in reality.
  • Macho: This behavior is eager to try maneuvers or react to situations in dangerous or risky ways. The famous last words of any pilot are, “Watch this.” I good pilot knows safety always comes before any action in flight.
  • Resignation: This behavior gives up in the midst of stress. Giving up almost ensures a crash and is never helpful. A pilot should be aware of potential problems and have an idea of how to react if these problems arise.


Accident Assessment

Accidents happen all the time in the drone community. Understanding the procedure after an accident will help you avoid higher expenses or penalties down the road.


If you are unsure of damage, make sure you have your insurance provider create a claim within 10 days. If you don’t have insurance, still try to have someone else involved in assessment. Don’t try to asses on your own. If you can’t get anyone else involved, report it. It’s better to report an accident you’re unsure about than not report it and ultimately be at fault.


What to do if you’ve crashed your drone:

You must report an accident if the accident meets a specific criteria. Failure to report will mean big trouble down the road that could result in a fine and/or a revoked license.


Report an accident through your dashboard on the FAA Drone Zone website.

  • Use the 107 dashboard account your drone is registered within
  • Report must be submitted within 10 days of the accident
  • Submit the report if:
    • There is more than $500 damage, not including the drone
    • There is serious injury like broken bones, large wounds or loss of consciousness


Information on this page comes from the FAA’s Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge

The Missouri Drone Journalism Drone Starter Kit

Your news outlet has purchased a drone. Now it’s time to cover news, get some aerial imagery, rock the skies with SkyNewsWatch6. But … there’s a bunch of other stuff that goes into deploying a drone for news operations. We’re not talking fun things like buying filters for the drone’s camera or LumeCubes to do light painting. We’re talking boring things. Like insurance. Or coming up with a consistent set of rules for when — and when not to — fly the drone. There’s a lot of information out there. And quite frankly, a lot of BS  to cut through. Enter the Missouri Drone Journalism Toolkit)

Three Missouri School of Journalism students (Marlee Baldridge, Travis Meier and Jordan Smith) spent the last semester creating this toolkit to try and answer many of the issues common to newsrooms.

They’ve built five modules to guide you along the way:

The business decision to buy a drone

Regulations and drones

Flight logs


Risks and accidents

We hope you find them useful.




LAANC approaches: Are you ready?

The Federal Aviation Administration announced last week that it was going to make working drone operators’ lives easier when it comes to airspace authorizations. What used to take 60 days or more should soon take minutes. It’s probably the best news for drone journalists that’s come out of the FAA since July 2016 when the agency announced operator’s didn’t need a private pilot’s license to fly.

But there’s prep work to be done so that we don’t make bad choices in the newsrooms — especially regarding back end systems.

Quick recap: The FAA regulates the air above us and certain areas have restrictions to how and where you can fly. These are typically around airports and each type of restriction has certain requirements for altitude and other technology (here’s a look at the relatively simple airspace near Columbia, Missouri). To fly  a drone legally and commercially in many of these spaces requires a waiver or authorization from the FAA. At one time you could get these authorizations from an airport’s control tower. Then the FAA instructed control towers to no longer give clearances and instead direct callers to a portal for authorization. Where you filled out a form. And waited. And waited. And sometimes got rejected. Because the portal wasn’t actually a functional portal. It was 30 contractors named Scott and Megan who spent all day processing thousands of these waiver requests (I don’t know if it was actually 30 or if they’re all named Scott or Megan, but the process takes forever).

Finally the portal came online in a limited number of locations. It’s called LAANC (Low-Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability). And the theory behind it is great: You look at a map provided by one of the LAANC providers and see where you want to fly. You click or tap on the grid it’s in, specify the purpose of your flight, the time you want to fly and the maximum altitude you fly. You submit it and have an answer back — usually an authorization  — in minutes. Unless, of course, it’s a special case, in which case the FAA is estimating 24-48 hour turnarounds. It’s been in testing at some locations and last week it was announced that the program is expanding nationwide in phases. 

The FAA being the FAA, they made the announcement using air route traffic control center regions, rather than states (it makes sense from an aviation perspective but not from an ease-of-use-when-trying-to-frantically-find-the-date perspective). There’s a rundown at the bottom of when LAANC will launch in live beta in each region (which I cribbed from, one of the LAANC providers).

The FAA isn’t allowing direct access to LAANC via government portal. They’ve released the API to a number of partners — four in the beta. Those are AirMap, Project Wing, Rockwell Collins and  Skyward. They’ve also opened up the API to applications from other developers. I wouldn’t be surprised to see drone performance and fleet management providers like AirData and Kittyhawk integrate LAANC into their systems (Kittyhawk’s CEO got really mad at the FAA about part of the program a few months ago). This is the holy grail for service providers. If you can integrate requests into your existing system, you’re much more likely to keep your customers in that system, since the cost of changing over gets so much higher.

So there’s the problem for the drone journalists among us: We have to make sure that the LAANC provider we choose integrates with the backend that we’re using to manage our fleets. For example, I know of one smaller TV station group that requires its stations to go through a bureaucracy-heavy process for any drone flight. They use a software-reporting system that requires the pilot to map out the proposed flight area on a map and go through a pre-flight checklist, submit it to the news director for approval, who then submits it the group’s VP/News for final approval. It’s not fast — but the station group has come to depend on that particular workflow. If their software provider doesn’t integrate into LAANC or have it integrated,  it creates a requirement for another system. Along with it comes additional requirements for custodianship of records, collation, etc. It gets to be a headache.

If you’re going to be using LAANC, you need to be looking at integration options before it rolls out in your airspace. And you need to be looking at more than that, too. Here’s a brief checklist:

  1. Does it integrate with my current workflow? This is a big one. We’d like everything to be all in one box. Spoiler: It probably won’t, at least for awhile. The FAA’s own onboarding process for new LAANC partners is a minimum 60-day process.
  2. Do I like how it works? Put simply, how easy is it to use? Do I envision using it a lot from the field so it needs a mobile interface? Or is most of my shooting done with advanced planning and a desktop interface will do?
  3. Where are the records kept? Your insurance company would like to know this. The danger of any kind of third-party software is that the third-party provider  will go out of business or drastically change its terms of service. The FAA will have copies of it (we think). But that’s a pain to get. So you’ll want to make sure the records are accessible to you as an email copy that you can save or that the provider allows you to sync/download those files as PDFs.

Now, about those regional rollout dates…

April 30
South-Central Region: Albuquerque, Fort Worth, Houston, Kansas City air traffic control centers. So basically all or portions of: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

May 24
Western-North Region: Anchorage, Denver, Seattle, Salt Lake City air traffic control centers. All or portions of Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming.

June 21
Western-South Region: Los Angeles, Oakland, Honolulu air traffic control centers. All or portions of California, Hawaii, Nevada, 

July 19
Eastern-South Region: Atlanta, Memphis, Miami, Jacksonville, San Juan
All or portions of: Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee

August 16
Eastern-North Region: Boston, New York, Washington air traffic control centers

All or portions of: Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Vermont

September 13
Central-North: Chicago, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Minneapolis
Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wisconsin.


And we’re baaack….

We’ve been really, really bad about posting here, and that’s going to change.

Here’s some quick updates and a little bit on what to expect in this space in the coming months.

New approach to the drone class

We’ve changed around how we teach the drone class at the School of Journalism. The class had been taught as a survey of drone applications inside and outside journalism. Then the FAA changed its rules and began to certify drone operators who did not have private pilot credentials. We expanded the class from 10 weeks to 15 weeks and turned the first half of the class into Drone Ground School — 8 weeks of instruction towards the FAA Section 107 test. This would, we believe, create a core of safe, responsible and knowledgeable student drone operators. And that’s what this is about: What good is it know how to shoot aerial photos or video if you can’t do safely or legally? Our students are still flying under supervision each week in flight labs — its just now they’re doing it with as much “why” as “how.”

We’re looking to take the knowledge that we’re gaining here and bring it into working newsrooms and classrooms.

New drones

We’ve expanded our drone fleet. And we’ve started a new tradition.

Students are flying DJI Phantom 4 Pro drones, which are becoming the most common entry-level drones for professional use (we’re using the Pro+ variant, if you’re really into these things).

We’ve also acquired a DJI Inspire 2 with a Zenmuse X4S camera to do more complicated video work. The drone has the capability to have a flight controller and camera controller. We think it’s a great option for students who may want to direct the photography of a project but haven’t had the time or training to learn how to pilot the drone; they can pair with a certified pilot and get some experience.

About the new tradition: We’ve started naming the drones. We wanted names that reflect Missouri’s rich aviation history, so each drone has a Missouri-themed name. Our Phantoms are The Spirit of James McDonnell (named after the co-founder of St. Louis-based McDonnell-Douglas) and The Spirit of Wendell Pruitt (named after St. Louis native and Tuskegee Airman Capt. Wendell Pruitt). We call them “The Spirit of…” as a nod to both Charles Lindbergh’s “Spirit of St. Louis” but also to acknowledge B-2 Spirit bombers based at Whiteman Air Force Base an hour down Interstate 70 near Sedalia.  Our Inspire 2 is named The Linda Godwin (after Cape Girardeau/Jackson native, MU physics professor and astronaut Linda Godwin, who is a veteran of four Space Shuttle missions and has spent 10 hours spacewalking).

“The Flying Tiger,” our tiger-striped Inspire 1, is still around, as well. We’re using it as an advanced trainer.

New staff
Missouri Drone Journalism’s co-founder, Rick Shaw, has moved on to the University of Florida. Bill Allen, the other co-founder, is enjoying retirement. Judd Slivka, an assistant professor in the Missouri School of Journalism’s Convergence area is the Reynolds Journalism Institute’s new Director of Aerial Journalism.

Looking forward…

We’ve been hard at work on some projects here while we’ve been radio-silent. Here’s some of what you’ll see posted in the coming months:

— Simple training videos for basic cinematic movements.

— Tips, hints and tricks for teaching drone usage to new, low-flight time fliers. such as that videographer you just hired who thinks “drones are cool” but has never flown one. Or students.

— A ‘policy in a box’ project so that newsrooms can spend less time developing mission guidance and more time using drones.

— A high-school drone journalism curriculum.

Interested? Have requests? Want to suggest a name for the next drone we acquire? Drop us a line here.





Prairie Restoration Drone View

The Missouri Drone Journalism program partnered with the Columbia Audubon Society to provide an aerial documentary of the group’s prairie restoration project at the Columbia Audubon Nature Sanctuary within the Bonnie View Nature Sanctuary in Columbia, Missouri. More than 15 acres of a former cow pasture were seeded with Missouri native grasses and wildflowers. In 2016, the Native Plant Society helped plant 147 pounds of seed containing 86 species to restore the prairie. Now in its second full growth season, the prairie is an explosion of color.