Major U.S. Broadcaster Expands Work for Newsgathering Drones


U.S. telecommunications company Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. recently joined government and industry stakeholders at the White House to examine the commercial applications for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and announce several new commitments.

Sinclair says it was the only broadcaster to be invited to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s event, entitled “Workshop on Drones and the Future of Aviation.” Including pending transactions, Sinclair owns, operates and/or provides services to 173 television stations in 81 markets.

At the White House event, Sinclair committed to support drone safety through the “Know Before You Fly” campaign by broadcasting public service announcements on its stations nationwide. The “Know Before You Fly” campaign was created in December 2014 by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International and Academy of Model Aeronautics in partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to educate users about the safe operation of drones.

Sinclair says it was among the first few broadcasters seeking to advance the use of drones by journalists: 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 UAS in real-life scenarios. This program grew to involve 16 media companies working with Virginia Tech, home to one of the six FAA UAS test sites.

In addition, earlier this year, Sinclair joined stakeholders and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to develop best practices for commercial drone use.

With the adoption of the FAA’s final rules for small drones at the end of the month, Sinclair is planning to expand its training program to 22 pilots. Sinclair also intends to collaborate with Virginia Tech on advanced equipment safety and share compilations of flight data from news-based drone operations.

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