Drones To Replace News Choppers?

The attack of the drone on news helicopters?

Arkansas Business says that drones are the future for TV news.

During the last two months, both Facebook and Google have acquired companies that manufacture remote aircraft. Machines that resemble tiny, lithe airplanes or spider-like helicopters can be seen buzzing through hundreds of YouTube videos, and Amazon is known to be developing tech that would use the aircraft to deliver packages.

All that to say: The drones are here, and they’re here to stay.

So how is the technology being used in Arkansas? One area: TV news. The days of the humble news chopper are waning. It’s now cheaper, easier and more effective to shoot stories with drones.

News stations are adapting to this change in different ways. Some are hiring freelancers with access to the technology.

For example, Tim Trieschmann of Little Rock owns three remote helicopters. Through his company, The Shot Above, he has shot videos for most of the city’s news stations, including KARK-TV, Channel 4; KTHV-TV, Channel 11; and KLRT-TV, Channel 16. Other local aerial photographers, such as Robert Davis, have done similar jobs.

“It’s really a replacement to when news agencies all had helicopters … they don’t have helicopters anymore,” Trieschmann said. “So any event that would justify a full-size helicopter, they’d call me.”

In February, Trieschmann shot video for KARK of the Majestic Hotel burning in Hot Springs.

“Obviously, from the ground, you could see the flames and smoke, but you couldn’t see the impact,” said Austin Kellerman, news director of KARK. “What he was able to do was fly the machine up above. That gave you a first look at how much the inside had burned and the extent of the damage. From a news content-gathering perspective, that was pretty valuable.”

The stability afforded by the modern multi rotor drones can supply video that’s actually better than what a regular news chopper might shoot (FTVLive is not quite sure we buy that line). 

In a manned helicopter, “sometimes the quality of video and perspective isn’t all that great. It can be almost distracting; depending on the setup, the camera might shake and the video would not necessarily be that clean,” Kellerman said.

The cost of hiring an aerial photographer, he noted, tends to be about half that of hiring a helicopter pilot.