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.