Students at the University of Missouri Journalism School, in Columbia, Mo., are now taking courses how to use drones to report stories.
"We have a class here of journalism students who are learning to fly J-bots, for journalism robots, or drones," said William Allen, a professor of journalism who pioneered the course, in an ABC report.
"So they learn to fly them, and also do what reporters do: brainstorm ideas, go out and do reporting, do drone based photography and video. We're trying to see if this is going to be useful for journalism," he said.
The university course emerged from a growing interest in the variety of ways civilians can use drones, including farmers who want drones to spray pesticides or monitor crops and livestock on sprawling acres of land; cops who want to use drones to help search for suspects or missing children; and energy companies who want to keep watch over oil or gas pipelines, said ABC.
The University of Missouri course, operating under current FAA regulations, can only use their drone in rural areas, and so has focused on conservation and agriculture stories, Allen said.
But the leaders of the drone journalism movement envision a time when news organizations replace costly helicopters and pilots with cheap drones to get closer to breaking news or weather stories, along with using them to uncover investigative pieces they may normally not see, said ABC.
"The other aspect is investigative, the idea is you put a drone up in the air and look around. Maybe you'll find things, who knows what yet," Allen said. "We need to explore that and see. Many journalists can't afford to rent a helicopter and fly around."