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STLPR’s drone takes flight, enhances news coverage

St. Louis Public Radio's newsroom drone.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis Public Radio's newsroom drone.

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, St. Louis Public Radio data and visual journalist Brent Jones joined host Don Marsh to talk about how the station is using a drone to enhance news coverage.

“For journalists, we like to think of [drones] as tools because we can use them to help tell the story in the best way that we know to tell it,” Jones said.

Jones is STLPR’s licensed pilot to fly the drone, receiving certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). He gave examples of how drones can be used, such as the aftermath of natural disasters.

Earlier this week, St. Louis Public Radio’s Ryan Delaney reported on the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s site debris being moved next to a St. Louis school.


“We wanted to show the scale of that site, the scope of the work being done there and the proximity of that pile to the school,” Jones said. “One of the ways that we were able to do that was by taking the drone up and being able to get an aerial view of that site.”

When it comes to privacy issues, reporters and editors fill out forms to assure that they do not invade anyone’s privacy. Jones said many local municipalities have established rules similar to the FAA’s.

“We’re trying to think through how to still bring the news to the public but in a responsible way,” he said. Other drone limitations include nighttime flying and weather circumstances.

In addition to getting video footage, a potential use for drone are carrying pollution sensors, temperature sensors and microphones. Jones said imagery from the drone can also be incorporated into graphics for web stories, where boundaries and points can be drawn on the footage.

“Even if the photos and videos don’t make it into a story, the reporters could still use them to get a better view of the situation and help them tell that story better whether that’s online or on air,” Jones said.

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

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Lara is the Engagement Editor at St. Louis Public Radio.
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