Media use of drones - ethics, law and the emerging 'two-tier' system of regulation
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Drones - also known as "Unmanned Aerial Vehicles" (UAVs), "Unmanned Aircraft Systems" (UASs) or "Remotely Piloted Aircraft" (RPA) - have been scrutinised for their military use, but are also emerging as a civilian commercial industry with numerous applications. Their use by the news media has prompted a host of ethical, legal and regulatory dilemmas internationally. While they have clear utility as newsgathering devices, their operation triggers ethical dilemmas of public safety and privacy, legal issues of trespass, nuisance, privacy and confidentiality, and regulatory challenges for aviation authorities tasked with defining and policing their safe use in civil airspace. This article defines and explains the basic principles of drones; reviews literature on selected international developments in media use of drones; and categorises the key ethical, legal and regulatory considerations before applying them to the Australian legal and regulatory context and considering the prospects for news media use of drones in Australia. It details case studies that raise the prospect of the emergence of a "two-tier" regulatory system, whereby hobbyists and citizen journalists can effectively fly their drones "under the regulatory radar" and gather footage during unfolding news events in situations where regulations preclude media outlets and other commercial operators from drone operation.
Australian Journalism Review
Copyright 2015 Journalism Education Association. This is the author-manuscript version of this paper. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Please refer to the journal website for access to the definitive, published version.