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Central Valley Newspaper Is Testing Out A Drone

A quadcopter (Felix Mizioznikov /
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Drone journalism hasn't completely taken flight, but we'd have guessed that some of the early pioneers would be outlets like TMZ not Fresno's hometown paper.

But the publisher of the The Fresno Bee announced this week that it is testing out a drone it just purchased to take aerial shots of, well, the kind of thing a hometown paper covers: car crashes, fires and water (this is the the San Joaquin Valley after all). There aren't plans to use it right away, but the newspaper's publisher and president Tom Cullinan told The Business Journal, "We will see if it has applications."

The paper purchased a quadcopter for under $500 that carries a GoPro camera. The camera and drone need to be operated separately and the drone can only stay airborne for about 20 minutes, so the paper has some logistics to figure out. But navigating fuzzy regulations from the Federal Aviation Administration will likely be the trickiest part of this new venture.

Cullinan said one time a drone might have been helpful is when two CHP officers were killed in a recent crash near Fresno, backing up traffic for miles and making it hard for a reporter or photographer to get to the scene. However, a Connecticut reporter who used a drone to cover a fatal accident ended up getting investigated by the FAA.

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It looks like for now we'll be getting most of our aerial journalism from the helicoptering heirs of Zoey Tur, who built the first modern news chopper (and gave us the modern televised high-speed police chase).