Autel Robotics drone arrives

Autel's X-Star quadcopter makes its inaugural test flight with the Missouri Drone Journalism program on Sunday, Aug. 21, 2016 at the Rock Bridge High School athletic fields. Coordinating the flight is, from left, Bill Allen, Kris Corbett, Muhammad Al-Rawi and Rick Shaw.

Autel Robotics’ X-Star quadcopter makes its inaugural test flight Aug. 21, 2016 in Columbia, MO. Coordinating the flight are, from left, Bill Allen, Kris Corbett, Muhammad Al-Rawi and Rick Shaw.

Students and faculty with the Missouri Drone Journalism program test fly an Autel Robotics X-Star Premium quadcopter Aug. 21 in Columbia.

The drone, a gift to the program from Autel Robotics, will be used as part of drone journalism classes and projects involving students from the Missouri School of Journalism and the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.

From left to right: Bill Allen, assistant professor of science journalism; Kris Corbett, Forestry and Fisheries and Wildlife student; Muhammad al-Rawi, electrical engineering student; and Rick Shaw, of the Reynolds Journalism Institute.

Thanks, Autel Robotics, for helping us educate safe, responsible and creative drone journalists of the future!

Drone demonstrations to High School students

The Missouri Drone Journalism program demonstrated drone flight techniques to high school students who were attending summer workshops at the Missouri School of Journalism.  With the relaxed FAA rules regarding educational operations, Rick Shaw hovers the DJI Inspire 1 above the Mizzou campus Quad for aerial group photos.

Urban Journalism Workshop at the Missouri School of Journalism, July 16, 2016

Urban Journalism Workshop at the Missouri School of Journalism, July 16, 2016


A drone demonstration at the Missouri School of Journalism provides an aerial view of Brazilian students on Wednesday, July 27, 2016.

A drone demonstration at the Missouri School of Journalism provides an aerial view of Brazilian students on Wednesday, July 27, 2016.

Washington Post publishes Zambia 360VR story

The Washington Post online publishes Sarah Hill’s 360VR story, “Zambia, Gift of Mobility.”  The piece includes 360 drone footage in collaboration with StoryUp and the Missouri Drone Journalism program.


FAA Part 107 = We Can FLY!

Below is a summary of the new FAA Part 107 rules regarding unmanned aircraft and academic institutions, effective in August.

Good News.  According to the new FAA regulation, “student use of unmanned aircraft in furtherance of receiving instruction at accredited educational institutions” can fly under the “recreational/hobby” (non-commercial) classification and does not require FAA authorization.

However, the student must be supervised by a pilot holding a “Remote Pilot Airman” license.

Here is the language from Part 107:

“To further enable the educational opportunities …,  this rule will allow the remote pilot in command (who will be a certificated airman) to supervise another person’s manipulation of a small UAS’s flight controls. A person who receives this type of supervision from the remote pilot in command will not be required to obtain a remote pilot certificate to manipulate the controls of a small UAS as long as the remote pilot in command possesses the ability to immediately take direct control of the small unmanned aircraft.”

For all business or commercial purposes, the new FAA rule requires a “Remote Pilot Airman” license.  The FAA considers the University a “commercial” classification.

The “Remote Pilot Airman” licenses rating is less intensive than a “Private Pilot – Airplane” license, although my higher-rated Private Pilot license will authorize me to operate and/or supervise drone flights by students.

Here is the language from Part 107:

“A person operating a small UAS must either hold a remote pilot airman certificate with a small UAS rating or be under the direct supervision of a person who does hold a remote pilot certificate (remote pilot in command).”

“The FAA exempts part 61 pilot certificate (Private Pilot license) holders from the requirement to complete recurrent knowledge tests as long as they satisfy the flight review requirements…”

Requirements to get a “Remote Pilot Airman” license are:

  1. Passing an aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center, or hold a Private Pilot license.
  2. Complete a small UAS online training course provided by the FAA.
  3. Be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration.

For the past two years, Bill Allen and I have been working to meet all these anticipated requirements.

Randy Picht, Mike McKean and David Rees have been key to supporting advanced training.

I feel confident that the Missouri School of Journalism will be able to report stories using unmanned aircraft when Part 107 goes into effect in August.

I hope this clarification helps and I am happy to provide more information.

Rick Shaw

Zambia—New Life Center

Zambia: Gift of Mobility

Missouri drone captures 360VR for disability project in Africa

The emerging technologies of 360° Virtual Reality video and unmanned aircraft are combined to tell the emotional story of people who have to crawl on the ground because they lack access to all-terrain wheelchairs in Zambia, Africa.

Sarah Hill, with Story Up Studios VR, visited the New Life Center in Zambia in October 2015 to document the story of charity workers as they distribute PET carts (Personal Energy Transportation) to those who are disabled.  Sarah and a team of five, including Rick Shaw of the Missouri Drone Journalism program, shot the project using 4K high quality 360° video with a Freedom360 mount and six GoPros Hero4 cameras for an immersive experience.

The challenge began in August 2015 to design an extended bracket for the 360 mount onto the DJI Inspire 1 quadcopter. No commercially designed accessory was on the market, so Rick attracted the help of a College of Engineering student, Muhammad Al-Rawi, to custom design a bracket for the Zambia project.

On Oct. 28, 2015, Sarah’s StoryUp team arrived at The New Life Center Zambia in Kitwe, Zambia. For four days, the team used 360VR and drone aerials to show the distribution of mobility carts, Personal Energy Transportation (PET), to the disabled poor in Africa. One distribution site was located in deep-bush Africa about 40 miles outside of Kitwe. Many of the recipients arrived by crawling, as they have no other means of mobility.

The posts on this project page show how Sarah and Rick embraced this advanced visual approach, experimented with drone aerials, and overcame environmental challenges in remote areas of Zambia.

See more below the cut.

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Drone hits airliner in London

Sobering news today:

It serves as a reminder of the importance to educate all UA operators on the safety procedures, legal guidelines, flight maneuvers and professional responsibility associated with these new aircraft.
This applies to domestic as well as international operations.

The goal of the Missouri Drone Journalism program is to encourage safe and responsible flight, and avoid something like this ever happening to a journalist or any professional in another discipline.

DJI Recognizes Missouri Drone Journalism Program





Our Missouri Drone Journalism program received promotional support from DJI.  The Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute recently purchased the DJI Inspire 1 for the Missouri Drone Journalism Program at the Missouri School of Journalism.  We created a custom tiger-stripe “skin” wrap for the Inspire as branding for a project in Zambia, Africa.  We also fly Phantom quadcopters in our class “Civilian Drone Issues, Applications and Flight.”

Workshop Provides Safety Education for Unmanned Aircraft Operators

Rick Shaw attended an intensive symposium workshop on drone flight safety at the Unmanned Safety Institute in Orlando, Florida in June 2015.  Read his reflections on the importance of drone safety training.  The Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute sponsored his tuition for the specialized training that earned him UAS Safety Certification and UAS Instructor Certification for small unmanned aircraft from the Unmanned Safety Institute, which is affiliated with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Find the story here.