Drone Shoots Harlem Building Collapse. Raises Issues About Regulation

By Kevin Eck Comment

drone13n-1-webWhen two buildings collapsed in Harlem killing 8 and injuring more than 70, a local man’s first reaction was to grab his three pound drone and head to the site.

Brian Wilson used his DJI Phantom drone to shoot images while the scene was still shrouded in dust. The New York Daily News ran Wilson’s video on its website. The picture to the left is from his drone.

In our TVNewser Show on April 29th, we will be discussing the increasing use of drones in journalism.

The Daily Beast made the 45-year-old New Jersey native an example of the larger issue surrounding the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in gathering news, something some local stations have already been experimenting with.

For a man who just filmed a close up of a real-life horror film, he seems virtually emotionless. His demeanor, in fact, strangely mimics that of his aircraft: robotic. Drone in hand, he’s returning to the scene to capture the pile of rubble where as many as fourteen people could be trapped.

Calling Wilson’s flight “one step forward for drones, two steps back for drone journalists the article raises the question: Because anyone can do it, does it mean they should?

But while some were gazing at Wilson’s drone show in awe, leaders in the drone journalism community watched in horror. Matthew Schroyer, founder of The Professional Society of Drone Journalism calls the decision to fly over an active rescue mission “irresponsible” and “reckless.”

“There’s little to no legitimate news value added there,” he tells The Daily Beast. “As a journalist, your job is to observe, not interfere.” While many things about the situation alarm Schroyer it’s Wilson’s blatant disregard for safety that he finds the most appalling. The drone Wilson was using, while a popular one for photographers, is far from perfect. Just five months ago, a 34-year-old man in New York City was arrested on charges of “reckless endangerment” after a drone he was flying fell from the sky in midtown Manhattan. It was the same model Wilson used.

Wilson said he was questioned by police, but allowed to shoot the scene. He told the Daily News, “At the end, the cops said they’d prefer if I didn’t fly in the area anymore, so I stopped.”

Here’s Wilson’s video form The Daily News site: