Published On: Sat, Aug 24th, 2013

Missouri and Nebraska ‘drone journalism’ programs grounded by FAA

For most of the year, the journalism programs at the University of Missouri and the University of Nebraska have used unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or drones to capture footage from “hard-to-reach” news sites like natural disasters.

Octocopter for aerial drone for photography Image/Video Screen Shot

Octocopter for aerial drone photography
Image/Video Screen Shot


In fact, the Missouri drone journalism program has produced newsworthy stories on a prairie fire in Missouri and more recently, an excavation site at Cahokia Mounds in Collinsville, Illinois.

Now the drones are grounded, at least temporarily.

The Federal Aviation Administration  (FAA) has contacted the journalism programs of both schools ordering them to stop flying the drones outdoors until they obtain government authorization.

The director and founder of the Missouri Drone Journalism Program, Scott Pham wrote earlier this week that that they received a letter from the FAA. Their counterparts in Nebraska did also.


Pham writes, “Through the eight months the Missouri Drone Journalism Program has operated, we’ve flown under the guidelines the FAA has set down for remote control aircraft. Those guidelines are generally as follows: a pilot may not fly above 400 feet, over populated areas, or near airports. A pilot may not fly beyond his range of sight, or without manual control.”

However, since the University is considered a “public agency”, they are required to obtain a  Certificateof Authorization (COA), which will require the program to spend a semester researching and applying for a COA.

Pham says they will of course get the COA; however, it will place certain restrictions on the program. “We will only be able to fly outdoors when within a single, small, contiguous airspace that is not a populated area. Any photography we obtain with the drone will be within this small space,” Pham said.

The Kansas City Star reports that the fall course for the drone journalism program  might now be canceled because of low registration.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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