How an Azerbaijani aviation engineer could help revolutionize journalism

Feb 13, 2012
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Imagine you’re a journalist.

You work for local TV station with modest resources. Your organization doesn’t have a lot, but your team prides itself on always getting a story first (and correct).  One day you’re sent to cover a protest. Unfortunately when you arrive, you’re already cut off from the action by authorities.

Do you hang around waiting to sneak by or get a plastic quote from one of the officers on duty?  Or do you go attach your camera to a remote controlled drone and send it in for a bird’s-eye view of the action? A new industry–that’s literally just taking off–could make that second option a reality for any news organization or freelance journalist, no matter the size of their budget. 

Radio Free Europe posted a pretty interesting article recently about a  Baku-born aviation engineer named Rauf Guliyev who designed and is now manufacturing small drone aircraft (sometimes called Unmanned Aircraft Vehicles, or UAVs) that specialize in carrying camera and filming equipment that could completely change the way that news organizations cover stories like protests, natural disasters and investigative reports

OK, well probably Guliyev’s main goal isn’t to make the lives of journalists easier.  His company is one of many competing in the drone aircraft industry valued at $95 billion. And to be fair, the majority of that industry is geared towards supplying military drones that can cost up to $10 million each. But Guliyev’s niche is a small but theoretically important one.  His company, DroidAir,  based in Germany,  manufactures an eight-armed helicopter that can carry a payload of up to 10 kg for 20 minutes geared to the media industry. It sells for about 5,000 euros, according RFE/RL.

Obviously having your own private drone raises certain legal and ethical questions–especially in relation to privacy, public safety and maybe even national security.  But the possibilities of how this new technology (and the unparalleled access it allows) can change the way journalists do their job is still being  discovered.

Recently, The University of Nebraska in the United States opened up a journalism lab to test the boundaries of what these little machines can do for newsgathering, according to the blog theverge.com. The post referenced a CNN reporter who used a drone to fly into an area recently devastated by a tornado and a viral video of a drone capturing a bird’s-eye view of a protest in Poland.

(Front page photo from DroidAir’s website)


About the Author

Joshua Boissevain

Joshua Boissevain is a research associate and editorial assistant at Transitions Online. He's also a freelance journalist and photographer based in Prague. Find him on twitter at @joshboissevain.
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