Should News Corp. Be Trusted with a Flying Robot Camera?

The FAA is investigating whether or not The Daily is operating an illegal aircraft

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The Daily caught some geeks' attention last year when it unveiled a tricked out, camera-equipped, flying drone for filming on location. The Parrot AR.Drone is Wi-Fi ready, can be controlled with an iPhone and has been used to film aerial shots of disaster areas for the News Corp.'s iPad publication. Suspecting that there might be some regulations about an aircraft with a camera, Kashmir Hill at Forbes called up the Federal Aviation Administration with a couple of questions:

Taking footage for news-gathering purposes seemed like a commercial use of a drone, which is a no-no, as I understand it. I followed up with the FAA asking if News Corp was one of the companies with an experimental certificate. The inquiry got lobbed to the FAA’s legal department…

“We are examining The Daily’s use of a small unmanned aircraft to see if it was in accordance with FAA policies,” said Les Dorr in an email today. A Daily spokesperson has not yet responded to an inquiry about ownership and licensing of the company’s drone.

Hill mentions that the potential for a "robot paparazzi" flying over celebrity's houses might raise some privacy concerns. (Allegations of privacy infringements is is definitely the last thing that Rupert Murdoch needs right now.) That said, Hill notes that the FAA is due to update the regulations she thinks News Corp. might be violating. Either way, her colleague Andy Greenberg puts into perspective how powerful some drones are becoming--they can even hack phones!

UPDATE: Gary Mortimer at sUAS News, a website devoted to covering drone technology, points out how paparazzi are already using drones to gain unauthorized access to celebrity spots with this video:

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