The rise of drone journalism 

Drone training at Konza Technopolis organized by NARMA together with the Kenya Flying Labs aimed at developing the capabilities of local remote pilots. PHOTO/Kenya Flying Labs.
  • Drone journalism involves using drones to capture video and photos from a bird’s eye view.
  • Journalists use drones as a powerful tool to cover events and get to hard-to-reach places.
  • The future of drone journalism is a looming game-changer for the tech world.

As the world adapts to new technologies, the media industry is experiencing rapid change as it embraces the potential of drone usage, and, seemingly, drone journalism is becoming significant in today’s media. 

Drones capture high-quality images and videos from the sky. They also provide live coverage for journalists and media professionals to cover events from different angles and new perspectives.

Rise of drone journalism 

Drone journalism involves using drones to capture video and photos from a bird’s eye view, reach inaccessible locations, and create compelling footage. This is a new and exciting area that offers many opportunities for media. 

Thanks to Code for Africa, this type of journalism has become a new form of media innovation that is changing the rules of the journalism game.

Media professionals embrace this more than traditional media. Rashid Hunt from the film industry has fully embraced the use of drones in his projects. 

“Shooting in the sky is really difficult. Climbing trees, buildings, and other high places to take the best photos can be tiring. 

But with drones, I can easily get a bird’s view, making it convenient. Thanks to drones, all my projects are now of high quality,” he says. 

 History of journalism 

The history of journalism has been marked by technological changes that have transformed the way news is produced and consumed.

From the invention of the printing press to the emergence of the internet, journalism has adapted to new media platforms and formats.

A drone ready for use by reporters to cover a story. PHOTO/Courtesy.

One of the most significant changes in journalism was the introduction of photography and videography, which enabled journalists to show, rather than tell, the reality of events and situations.

Aerial photography and videography offered a unique and powerful perspective that could reveal the scale, impact and context of news stories.

However, the two were often risky, expensive and limited. 

Journalists had to rely on the use of helicopters and satellites, which were costly and exposed them to dangers.

This led to the advent of drones since they can provide unprecedented access, flexibility, and creativity in covering news stories that would otherwise be difficult and almost impossible to report.

 Code for Africa 

This is the main organization behind the growing nature of drones. 

Code for Africa (CfA) is the continent’s most extensive network of civic technology and data journalism labs, with offices and staff in various African countries.

According to Code for Africa website, they offer digital democracy solutions that allow citizens unfettered access to actionable information to empower them to make informed decisions and strengthen civic engagement for improved public governance and accountability.

This involves building infrastructure like the continent’s largest open data portals at openAFRICA and sourceAFRICA, as well as incubating initiatives as diverse as the africanDRONE network, the PesaCheck fact-checking initiative and the sensors.AFRICA air quality sensor network.

It also contains stories that powerfully highlight the diversity, beauty and challenges of the continent.

Freelance journalist Sheillah Barongo is one of Code for Africa’s beneficiaries.

“Through Code for Africa, I have been able to complete the course training on Introduction to Drone Journalism. I am looking forward to a successful career pathway whereby I can cover my stories entirely using a drone.

I urge the Ministry of Education and the government to introduce drone technology to universities and colleges to benefit students with a strong passion for technology-related courses,” she says.

Kenya Flying Labs experts testing their drone during the second edition of the Kenya Drone Business Competition. PHOTO/Kenya Flying Labs.

Revolutionizing how journalists work 

Drones have been used to document the aftermath of natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes and to monitor and tell about wildlife conservation.

They have also been used to expose human rights violations such as mass graves, refugee camps and war zones that could endanger life of the journalist. 

Drone journalism has been used for various projects. Some are as follows:

  • Investigative journalism

Investigative journalists use drones to uncover the truth behind secretive activities such as human trafficking, terrorism, and smuggling. They can reveal hidden activities beyond the human eye.

  • Environmental journalism

Environmental journalists use drones to expose the adverse effects of climate change, which are now taking a toll on humans. Journalists can easily show the extent and impact of pollution, deforestation, wildlife poaching, and any other environmental issues.

  • Sports journalism

With the help of drones, sports journalists are able to enhance coverage of events and provide dynamic and immersive views of the venue, atmosphere, and actions of different games such as skiing and golf.

Limitations of using drones

However, the use of drones in the media industry is not without limitations. 

Journalists often face ethical, legal, and technical challenges. These issues need to be addressed before drones become mainstream tools for media production and consumption.

Chris Kirimi is a photojournalist who has covered most of his stories using drones. He talks about what most journalists go through while covering events around the country.

“The road since I entered the world of drone journalism has not been easy. While reporting in a new area, I found myself in a difficult situation due to laws and regulations. Sometimes, it’s difficult to keep the people and locations you’re filming safe.

DJI Phantom 4 drone that can stay in the air for 28 minutes and fly a distance of about 5 km. PHOTO/Courtesy.

Sometimes, it may be difficult to access certain places. Ultimately, this raises questions not only about the reliability and authenticity of the video but also about journalistic values ​​and standards,” he says.

What’s next for drones? 

Despite these challenges, drones are playing an increasingly important role not only in the media industry, but also in a variety of projects being implemented around the world. 

It provides new opportunities for storytelling and information dissemination.

As Africa transforms towards its 2063 Agenda, the media industry is adapting to the use of drones to keep pace with society’s changing needs and demands. 

They have become a tool that enhances the media’s ability to inform, educate and entertain the public.  

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“Drone journalism has revolutionized storytelling in modern media, and documenting stories from multiple angles has become increasingly essential. Our visual storytelling has really improved,” says Kirimi.

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Ms. Nyamwaya is a journalist and human interest article writer who loves exploring the stories of ordinary people and their extraordinary lives. She uses her skills and passion to bring out the voices and perspectives of those often overlooked or misunderstood. Her contacts:



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