At Wednesday’s Capitol Hill science and technology fair, Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. joined stakeholders in the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) industry to educate members of Congress and their staff on the use of UAVs.
According to Sinclair, a diversified television broadcasting company, the fair capped off a day of meetings with lawmakers, including members of the Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus, organized by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.
Since the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) finalized its rules for commercial drones at the end of August, Sinclair has launched UAV teams in Washington, D.C.; Baltimore; Green Bay, Wis.; Columbus, Ohio; Little Rock, Ark.; and Tulsa, Okla.
At the tech fair, Sinclair displayed a video compilation of news footage it has captured using drone-based photography, including surveys of earthquake and flood damage, traffic, local parades and fairgrounds, and a high school softball game. (That compilation can be watched here.)
Just recently, Sinclair says it sent two UAV pilots to Iowa to cover the flooding in Cedar Rapids. The CBS2/FOX 28 quadcopter gave the community unique perspectives on the rising water, the newly constructed flood wall, and citizens who are pulling together to save their homes and businesses, Sinclair explains.
“Our drone program is off to a great start, with safety being the top priority,” notes Jeff Rose, chief pilot for Sinclair’s drone operations. “Our policy is to have two operators for each aircraft: one to fly the drone and one to focus solely on the photography. We also meet with local law enforcement as part of our training and before we begin operations. We think establishing coordination protocols at the outset with police, fire and other first responders is critical for the safety of our communities as we incorporate the use of this new technology.”
In 2014, the company began working with the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership at Virginia Tech to develop safety protocols for newsgathering and to train its journalists how to fly drones in real-life scenarios. In the future, Sinclair plans to share compilations of flight data from news-based drone operations with Virginia Tech to advance equipment safety.
By the end of 2017, Sinclair says it will have 80 trained and FAA-certified drone pilots in 40 markets.