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Why Media Companies Are Putting Drones to Work

From Hollywood movie sets to news gathering and documentary filmmaking, drones are being used around the world to shoot footage in exciting and creative ways.

Most interesting is that, depending on the scenario, the many different strengths of drone technology are coming to the fore: safety, perspective, persistence, and even subtlety.

Here are a few examples of how drones are shaking up the media business.

Bringing Subtlety to BBC Wildlife Documentaries

The BBC’s Blue Planet is one of the most-watched wildlife documentary series of all time. The second season was packed with drone footage showing off the natural world at its best.

There were shots from above at sea, birds-eye views tracking animals across Africa’s great plains and much more.

The most memorable use of drone technology came in the episode ‘Coasts’, where the BBC production team set out to film a band of sea lions in the Galapagos Islands with a reputation for hunting speedy Yellowfin Tuna.

All the team had to go on were a few fanciful fisherman tales. They didn’t actually believe it was possible until, flying a DJI Inspire and Phantom directly above the action, they watched as the seals coordinated a clever herding operation to drive the huge fish into the shallows.

With the aerial perspective, the team were able to capture and understand the animals’ behavior in a way that wouldn’t have been possible with underwater or traditional long lens equipment.

On top of that, the Blue Planet team were able to film moments that would otherwise have been disturbed by helicopters carrying camera equipment.

News gathering from above

Media giant CNN has led the way for news broadcasters using drones in America. In 2016, after plenty of testing, the company launched CNN Air. At the time, the media organization’s aerial division had just two full time pilots.



Now, more than 45 drone pilots are used to gather news, storytelling footage and context from above.

In the summer of 2017, CNN became the first organization to get a Part 107 waiver for drone flights over people for closed-set motion picture and television filming. Later that year, another waiver was granted to CNN, for operations over crowds of people.

In many cases, aerial footage has accompanied news reports and added context to developing stories. In others, the aerial footage has itself been the story.

CNN has used drones to provide viewers with breaking insights into some of the past year’s biggest news stories, from aerial imagery revealing the growth of government detention facilities near the Mexican border, to cataloging the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, to the drone images used to mark the anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King.

Drones on the big screen

A drone can do more than quietly capture wildlife and hover above unfolding situations as news readers talk over the live feed.

At its core, every professional drone is a cinematography tool, ready to be harnessed by a skilled pilot to capture a scene in a creative, memorable way. Like this incredible introductory shot, from Amazon TV series Goliath...



Drones have also been used in more Hollywood blockbusters than you might think, from James Bond hit Skyfall to The Wolf of Wall Street.

You might have heard that the team behind Game of Thrones had to deploy countermeasures to stop drones from snooping on the crew as the series wrapped up filming. But there were also plenty of times when drones were used in the right way, to pull off shots would have otherwise been impossible or challenging.



It’s safe to say that drone technology has been embraced by those whose job it is to bring scenes to life. If you’re a filmmaker with a story that needs telling, it makes a lot of sense to have one in your toolkit.

Want to tell your story from an aerial perspective? Get started here.

Tags: Drone Industry Drone Uses Drones
Malek Murison
Malek Murison

Malek Murison is a technology journalist based in London who covers drone industry news and product reviews for DroneLife. He's written features for the Financial Times and works with some of the drone world's most exciting startups.


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