Familiar drone.

Wednesday, June 10th, 2020

During the coverage of the protests, during the coverage of George Floyd’s funeral, during the coverage of the Georgia primary elections yesterday, one visual component you can begin to expect is lovely low altitude sweeping aerial footage captured by drones. It’s hard to argue that hovering just overhead isn’t a compelling angle, but after a while, I think we’re inured to it.

I thought of that watching flying cameras swoop over the Park Tavern, which, normally, is a place to eat and drink on the edge of Piedmont Park, but yesterday, it was a multi-precinct polling place (for reasons still a bit obscure to me.) But hey, the hot and thirsty people in line look quite picturesque from this angle, right?

AP’s drone aloft over Atlanta’s Park tavern, June 9, 2020.

The FAA tells amateur pilots that they absolutely cannot fly over people or crowds, and yet, well, this is journalism, right? Is there a better visual way to show you how long the line was or how many people marched? I’m torn, because I have one of these things and I am very wary of dropping it on someone’s head (I’m equally wary of flying it into a tree, which in Atlanta, is a frequent challenge.)

There are also all kinds of restrictions (basically “no fly zones”) near airports, sporting events, political rallies, and concerts (a lot of events that aren’t happening in the days of The Virus), and, well, much of the online collection of rules, regulations, and anecdotal advice does not cover mass protests or police action.

There’s also the annoyance factor. Although yes, drones are quieter than, say, helicopters, they have a rather distinctive noise that tends to make passers-by look up in alarm or perturbation: they sound like a swarm of angry bees.

So there’s that to work on.