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CNN and FAA sign research deal to bring drones into news reporting

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Drones are going to help CNN bring you the news. The 24-hour news network has signed a research agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration that will "advance efforts" to bring more unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) into its newsgathering and reporting process. "Our aim is to get beyond hobby-grade equipment and to establish what options are available and workable to produce high quality video journalism using various types of UAVs and camera setups," CNN SVP David Vigilante said in a statement. "Our hope is that these efforts contribute to the development of a vibrant ecosystem where operators of various types and sizes can safely operate in the US airspace."

News organizations have joined the ever-growing chorus of criticism directed at the FAA's current commercial drone ban, arguing that keeping the unmanned crafts out of the sky violates the First Amendment rights of journalists. In a brief filed with the NTSB in May, organizations including The New York Times and Associated Press said, "Reports on traffic, hurricanes, wildfires, and crop yields could all be told more safely and cost-effectively with the use of [unmanned aerial vehicles]."

CNN has been studying the use of drones for months; in June, the network partnered up with the Georgia Institute of Technology for a "research initiative" that aims to figure out the best (and safest) way of employing small drones for news purposes. Data from the effort is being shared with the FAA, and today's agreement between CNN and the FCC will "integrate efforts" from the Georgia Tech study.