Filming from a high viewpoint helps bring a sense of scale to stories that might otherwise be unavailable to journalists from developing countries, says Dickens Olewe, African SkyCAM founder.
“Many African media cannot afford to buy or hire helicopters to cover fast-moving stories,” says Olewe, also a journalist at Kenyan newspaper The Star. “[Unmanned Aerial Vehicles] UAVs aid storytelling from a new perspective.”
The pilot African SkyCAM project is funded by the Africa News Innovation Challenge and is using these UAVs in Kenya. A follow-up initiative, AfricanDRONE, is planned to establish safe community standards for ‘drone journalism’ on the African continent.
The drones are ‘cheap’ and potentially allows coverage of events such as natural disasters without risking journalists’ safety or their equipment.
See an example of drone footage capturing giraffes in Kenya:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yxe7wObjGS4
But the concept of using drones to ‘monitor’ communities is not without its disadvantages.
The main problems facing drone journalism is public mistrust, misconceptions about what a drone is and a lack of clear legislation about them, says Ben Kreimer, a member of the Drone Journalism Lab at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, US.
“When most people think of drones, they think of military and surveillance aircraft, not a remote control quadcopter, which looks like a flying iPod that I can set on my hand.”
Kenya’s lack of regulation regarding drone usage effectively allows anyone to operate them and this situation could threaten his project as some people might use drones for inappropriate purposes, says Olewe, who is due to begin a fellowship at Stanford University in the US, to develop AfricanDRONE, a drone journalism association.