New York: Drones may soon become a crucial part of the reporter`s arsenal of tools, if an innovative experiment by a journalism professor in the US proves to be successful.
Professor Bill Allen from the University of Missouri is exploring the potential merits of using the unmanned aerial vehicles for various journalistic purposes.
"Our vision is to help lead the journalism profession responsibly and innovatively into a new frontier of public service news coverage using this new technology," Allen said.
"We think drones, if used right, have potential to help journalists perform their news-gathering and watchdog duties in our democracy," he said.
Allen`s fascinating class, called Science Investigative Reporting/Drone Journalism, is in its inaugural semester as part of the new University of Missouri Drone Journalism Programme, the `New York Daily News` reported.
Students, in the class, operate drones or "J-bots" as they describe them, that weigh only a few pounds each, as tools to help with reporting.
The "J-bots" which are about the size of a basketball and each has foot-long legs, small motors with propellers and is equipped with a high-quality lightweight GoPro camera.
Students have so far used the camera-equipped drones to report an array of stories about prairie conservation, a hot environmental topic in the Midwest, the report said.
However, the small robot aircraft, operated from remote control on the ground, could eventually help reporters snap aerial shots of everything from roped-off crime scenes to wildfires, and other natural disasters, where it would be hazardous or impossible for a reporter to enter, Allen said.
"I think the kinds of stories that could really be augmented with this technology really focus on environmental stories," he said.
Critics already have raised issues of privacy and whether journalists might use similar craft to score in-demand celebrity photos by flying the machines over houses of the rich and famous.