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CNN Helps FAA With Drone 'Next Steps'

CNN is one of three companies the Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday it will team up with to help expand commercial drone use.

The FAA published a draft proposal for commercial small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) use in February, and is still vetting comments, but it is already tapping industry expertise to explore "next steps."

“Government has some the best and brightest minds in aviation, but we can’t operate in a vacuum,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a statement. “This is a big job, and we’ll get to our goal of safe, widespread UAS integration more quickly by leveraging the resources and expertise of the industry.”

CNN will look at how newsgathering operations can safely use the drones for line-of-sight visuals in urban areas.

In addition, the FAA is teaming with UAS manufacturer PrecisionHawk to explore extended line-of-sight use for crop monitoring and other agricultural uses, while BNSF will look at beyond visual line-of-sight uses in rural and isolated areas for inspecting rail infrastructure.

“Even as we pursue our current rulemaking effort for small unmanned aircraft, we must continue to actively look for future ways to expand non-recreational UAS uses,” FAA administrator Michael Huerta said. “This new initiative involving three leading U.S. companies will help us anticipate and address the needs of the evolving UAS industry.”

CNN and the FAA have already been working together via a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement.

CNN's bird's-eye-view of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. – the scene of a seminal moment in the civil rights struggle – already represents a seminal moment in newsgathering.

The video, which aired on CNN's morning news show New Day March 6 – the day before the 50th anniversary of "Bloody Sunday," when civil rights activists started the march from Selma to Montgomery – was "the first ever FAA-authorized use of UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone] video for news-gathering."

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.