Drones, Kites and Balloons! Oh My!

I got pretty amped about drone journalism this time last year, and it’s slowly catching on within grassroots media organizations and those looking for an affordable, accessible way to tell a story from the air (election protests in Russia, Improv Everywhere in NY).

You won’t see CNN or NBC with drones flying above the Presidential inauguration or next high-profile court case — this year. But it’s my bet major news organizations are going to adopt this technology very soon. It’s cheap. It’s nimble. And nevermind those pesky privacy laws, drones get you into spaces journalists typically have to break trespassing laws to view.

Personally, I’m still waiting for the client opportunity where we can buy a camera-mounted hexacopter drone to capture brand content for a client. But, they’re a little pricey… today. We’ll get there.

And that’s why I’m excited for this organization who is creating high resolution maps using low cost, DIY technology like kites, balloons and cheap digital cameras.

Their most impressive effort to-date was mapping the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf Coast. Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science’s (PLOTS) maps were the only high resolution images available at the onset of the spill and spread all over the world media because access to airspace was restricted and planes could not capture aerial photos using traditional methods.

Sunlight Foundation just posted a very good video feature on PLOTS. It’s worth watching and reading the entire piece if you have a few minutes. PLOTS website is also a treasure trove of cool technology capturing stellar images.

At the very least, I expect one client event activation in the next 6 months to include kite- or balloon-mounted cameras. That’s a dare!