The Federal Aviation Administration has a problem with a recently posted Spokesman-Review video from the Polar Bear Plunge in Coeur d'Alene because the footage was captured using a remote-control helicopter, according to a report today from Poynter, a Florida-based journalism ethics institute.
Spokesman photographer Jesse Tinsley reportedly used his personal quad-copter to capture an aerial view of swimmers scrambling into Lake Coeur d'Alene for the New Year's Day tradition. Watch the video.
But the FAA has strict regulations in place that prohibit the use of drones or unmanned aircraft for commercial purposes. They have yet to issue rules on the proper use, and have banned all use in the meantime.
Tinsley told Poynter last week he believes the video falls into a "gray area" because it was a personal helicopter, used on personal time. He has also used the craft to take photos for non-work related projects like this and this.
Tinsley, who reportedly has a pilot's license, told Poynter he never flies over people or over private property as part of his personal rules for safe operation of the craft.
Poynter reached out to the FAA today to clarify the issue and spokesman Les Dorr told them: "There is no gray area." It was not immediately apparent if the FAA planned to take any steps against the Spokesman.
Spokesman editor Gary Graham told Poynter last week they would keep up the Polar Bear Plunge, but would be reviewing the legal ramifications before publishing any future aerial videos or photos.
Journalists have been chomping at the bit to put drones to use in photojournalism and other reporting. We reported in July 2012 on the privacy and security concerns surrounding the future use of drones. The FAA just last week announced new testing sites in several states for drones to help establish nationwide regulations.