Drone Policy Adopted by Missouri School of Journalism

The first comprehensive guidelines for the use of unmanned aircraft was passed by the Policy Committee of the University of Missouri School of Journalism on December 14, 2016.

The action sets “safe, legal and responsible” protocol for students, faculty and staff who wish to fly drones for stories with affiliated School of Journalism news organizations or for classes.  The procedures are intended to ensure that the Missouri School of Journalism takes full advantage of the new regulations enacted by the Federal Aviation Administration in June 2016.

The core standards exceeds FAA rules by requiring practical flight experience, as well as an understanding of the concepts under Title 14 CFR, Part 107.
This includes:
• Direct supervision by a pilot holding an FAA Remote Pilot Airman license.
• Completion of an approved study guide for the FAA Part 107 Knowledge Test.
• A minimum of six hour of hands-on flight training, through an intermediate skill level.

“The goal is to promote a culture of constructive attitude and pattern of behavior that demonstrates a commitment to safety,” said Richard Shaw of the Missouri Drone Journalism program.

The Missouri Drone Journalism program is an interdisciplinary partnership at the University of Missouri dedicated to helping students understand and use small, unmanned aircraft systems in service to society.

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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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.

Costa Rica Trip

The first addition to our Projects page:

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Since government regulations prevent us from doing drone journalism in U.S. airspace, we look for opportunities internationally. To date, our favorite spot to fly is Costa Rica, particularly in the northwestern province of Guanacaste. Below you’ll see some of our recent work there.

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Korean Journalists Observe a Class, Drones in Flight


The Missouri Drone Journalism program received a visit from a group of Korean journalists during class on Monday, April 22. The group was made up of seven reporters that are based in Seoul, South Korea. All are defectors from North Korea. A few of the reporters even left the communist nation within the last two years. Many now work for publications that cover North Korean topics for a South Korean audience.

The journalists were visiting as part of a seminar with the East-West Center. The group studied new media techniques during its stop at the Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia, Mo. for most of the past week, and will also travel to Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles.

During the afternoon, the journalists discussed possible uses of drones in journalism and observed a drone in flight. The class also showed some of its published work involving drone footage to the Korean journalists.

A visiting reporter with the newspaper DailyNK in Seoul, said that she believed drone technology would be useful in documenting the demilitarized zone between North Korea and South Korea.

“I specialize in North Korea coverage, and overhead pictures of both the demilitarized zone and the edge of the North (Korea) would be dynamic,” said the reporter through an assigned translator.

The Drone Journalism program also hosted a group of Pakistani journalists for a similar session in March.

*Names were omitted from the text and faces were omitted from photographs to protect the North Korean families of defected journalists from possible retribution.*

More images from the Korean journalists’ visit:




Journalists from Pakistan visit the Missouri Drone Journalism Program

Video By Zach Garcia

Earlier last month, the Missouri Drone Journalism Program was asked to give a group of visiting Pakistani journalists a demonstration and brief explanation of the program and its goals. The journalists were brought to tour the United States through an exchange set up by the East-West Center, which “promotes better relations and understanding among the people and nations of the United States, Asia, and the Pacific through cooperative study, research, and dialog.”

It works similar to a foreign exchange program: it seeks out a group of journalists from both the United States and Pakistan with backgrounds in different media, and sends them on a two-week tour of the each others’ country.

While the visiting journalists were not originally planning on visiting the Missouri Drone Journalism Program, we jumped at the opportunity. We were unsure how a group of Pakistanis would react to such a controversial technology being used in journalism, and was pleasantly surprised when the Pakistanis expressed.

The visiting group was most interested in the potential implementation of drone in dangerous situations like suicide bombings and natural disasters. After introducing them to the Program, we showed the group a couple of the articles and stories we’ve produced. We then we gave the journalists the opportunity to see the drones in action and even taught a few of them how to fly.

Matthew Dickinson gave them a brief lesson and then put the controls in their own hands. After about 15 minutes of flying, the visiting journalists had their fill of flight for the day. Most were able to get the drone into the air after a couple tries, an impressive feat given the steep learning curve most experience with our models.

The slideshow below shows a couple of the visiting journalists first attempt at drone flight.