Drones: The Sky's the Limit

Drones: The Sky's the Limit

With the rapid new advances of today’s technology, technology and journalism have never been so closely intertwined. This relationship is seen in the push towards drone journalism which is the use of drones, or unmanned aircraft systems, for journalistic purposes.

The field of drone journalism first entered the scene in 2011 when a Polish activist launched a small craft with four helicopter-like rotors (Corcoran, 2012). He flew the drone over riot police lines to record a violent demonstration in Warsaw. The clear, overhead pictures were remarkably different from regular images provided by protest coverage and helped to capture details of what occurred behind the police lines. The images went viral once they were posted online.

Ever since, drone journalism has been popping up throughout the world, providing many advantages to the field of journalism including creating better photojournalism opportunities, being cheaper than using a plane or helicopter to cover news, providing safer coverage of natural disasters and tracking the path of storms, and mapping and covering environmental conditions (Fletcher, 2016). However, it wasn’t until 2013 that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) allowed drones to be used for journalism in the U.S.

Messiah alumus Cody Wanner ’09 has quite a bit of experience using drones to create stories. Wanner is a cofounder of CAP Collective, a video production company in Harrisburg, Pa. that specializes in online video marketing content. CAP Collective started offering aerial footage at the beginning of 2017.

“The advantage to using drone shots in videos is that it gives the audience a view they likely have not seen before—making it eye catching, which is great for getting a viewer to stop scrolling on their newsfeed, watch more of the video, and get more of the intended message,” Wanner says.

Over the years, Messiah has taken advantage of drone technology to make multiple videos that have showcased the campus from a unique perspective, shared the emotions of move-in day and captured the excitement of homecoming weekend.

The variety of different stories that drones can capture and share are endless. A student from the University of Nebraska used drones to capture and map 3D virtual environments of the dump in Nairobi that people live alongside of (Kreimer, 2014). Drones were also used to tell the story of people with physical disabilities in Zambia (University of Missouri, 2017). These disabilities required individuals to crawl on the ground because they lacked all-terrain wheelchairs. Students from the Missouri Drone Journalism Program used 360 Virtual Reality video to capture the emotional moment when many of these individuals received a wheelchair.

With drones, the sky’s the limit!

– Alli Williams ’19

Kreimer, B. (2014) Nairobi’s dandora dumpsite. Ben Kreimer polymedia producer. Retrieved from

University of Missouri (2017). Missouri drone journalism. Retrieved from