Drones could soon be gathering footage of highway traffic and concerts in�Oregon, USA

Media firm announces plans to test news-gathering drones

A media company in the USA wants to use drones to gather news once the FAA issues new rules on the technology.

Alpha Media, which owns close to 70 radio stations in the US, wants test the use of drones to gather video footage of highway traffic and concerts in Oregon for its Portland radio station KXL-FM 101.

The FAA currently bans most commercial drone flights, but has been required by Congress to integrate drones into the US airspace in coming years and Alpha wants to be among the first broadcasters to take advantage once those new rules are in effect, executive vice president Scott Mahalick said.

"We've entered into an agreement with a drone manufacturer, and we'll be flying them in Portland, subject to the FAA's new guidelines," Mahalick said, adding the company would like to expand drone use beyond Portland.

Mahalick said Alpha Media may ultimately seek FAA permission for larger drones as well.

In September, the FAA loosened restrictions on the use of drones, granting exemptions to a group of television and movie production companies and another 159 companies have applied for commercial drone authorisation, largely for non-news-gathering purposes.

The FAA can't estimate how long it will take to review these applications, said agency spokeswoman Alison Duquette, but she added that federal aviation officials were working to draft rules due to be implemented at some point in 2015 that would allow broader commercial use of drones weighing under 25kg, eliminating the need for FAA approval.

The drone industry has mushroomed in recent years with the arrival of small, inexpensive remote-control aircraft that can carry cameras, sensors or other equipment that makes them useful for a wide-range of uses, from crop dusting to locating people lost in the wilderness to filming movies.

More than a dozen major US media outlets this year joined a lawsuit challenging the FAA's right to regulate press use of drones, arguing that restrictions hamper the freedom of the press enshrined in the US Constitution.

An administrative judge agreed, but the case was then ordered to a full hearing, according to the UAV Digest, an online trade publication. A date for the hearing has not yet been set.

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