Media Coverage in the Drone Industry: Perspective Needed

A media clip used in a BBC News section about the excessive amount of medicine in UK prisons

Working in DJI’s communications division should include its ups and downs. Being the producer synonymous with the trade means you get loads of free publicity each time a media group is working a drone-related story. But it additionally implies that your title will get dragged by the mud each time one thing unhealthy ‘happens’.

Take this for an instance. In the previous week, DJI and drone expertise extra typically have had some fairly unhealthy publicity in the UK media. The first incident concerned (one more) drone pilot reportedly flying too near an airport – in this case London Gatwick – and inflicting business flights to be diverted.

The key phrase right here is reportedly, as a result of though the story could be discovered in loads of respected information shops, together with the BBC, there’s little greater than passenger testimony to go by. It wasn’t that way back comparable ‘near-miss’ drone incident at London Heathrow turned out to be a flying plastic bag.

There’s little question that there are rogue pilots flying the place they shouldn’t and getting too near airports. It’s additionally truthful to imagine that, as drone gross sales are on the rise, extra of those incidents are occurring than earlier than. However, there does seem like an inclination to overstate each the frequency and the seriousness of those conditions.

The second instance of damaging protection this previous week was a BBC News characteristic outlining the rising variety of medication in UK prisons. Prison officers confiscated 225kg (about 500lb) of medicine in one 12 months, which is each spectacular and somewhat worrying, in response to the report.

There has been proof displaying that drones are getting used to drop contraband into UK prisons, however the notion that it is a widespread incidence or certainly that drones are the actual downside right here is broadly overstated. There had been 33 incidents of drones being detected in or round jails in England and Wales in 2015. These weren’t wholely answerable for the 500lb of medicine and 13,000 telephones confiscated in prisons throughout the UK a 12 months later.

Unfortunately for DJI, the firm’s newest Phantom was used as an instance a menacing drone hovering above some jail wire in the information report. And they are saying all publicity is sweet publicity! Ironically, the firm hasn’t even joined the drone supply bandwagon but.

DJI will proceed to be related to the worst penalties of drone expertise, whether or not that’s jail deliveries, near-misses with plane or the weaponizing tendencies of Isis.

Are Drones Being Scapegoated?

Back in the US, you’ll have struggled to not hear a few South Carolina jail escape that was apparently aided by a drone final week.

“We 100 percent know a cellphone was used or multiple cellphones were used while he was incarcerated, and we believe a drone was used to fly in the tools that allowed him to escape,” Bryan Stirling, the director of the South Carolina Department of Corrections, mentioned at a information convention on Friday.

Both jail instances are fascinating. Whether it’s an escape or a ridiculous variety of medication on the premises, it seems as if drone expertise is getting used as the scapegoat right here. Sure, possibly drones did ship wire cutters and a specific amount of medicine to prisons in the US and the UK. But in the end it is a failure of the authorities and people answerable for jail safety.

In the UK, the place numbers of jail employees have shrunk over current years in line with the authorities’s austerity measures, pointing the finger at nefarious drone pilots is much more handy than questioning the coverage selections and widespread corruption which have led to it being simpler to get excessive in jail than out on the streets.

The Wider Problem: Negative Drone Stories Sell

The downside that coverage consultants and communications administrators working in the drone trade are going to should get used to is that this: damaging drone tales promote. Dangerous drones make for nice headlines. Fear will get clicks.

That’s a disgrace, particularly contemplating the constructive trade tales which have come to mild in current months. Drones actually can save lives, whether or not they’re delivering medical provides in Rwanda, defibrillators in Sweden or looking for survivors on the high flooring of burning condo blocks in London.

DJI’s head of coverage and authorized affairs Brendan Schulman appeared to have had sufficient this week, mentioning that sure publications had been far too fast to imagine that drones had been actually responsible for the jail break…

He adopted up the publish with “Oh sorry, that was utter speculation. Like the article, in which every quote actually undermines the sensational headline.” He then posted a picture displaying that the jail in query was Geo-fenced by DJI, whereas mentioning that “no-one in the drone industry was asked to comment. ‘May have’ in the headline turned into ‘probably’ in the photo caption.”

“Safety and security problems exist, should be discussed, & are being addressed,” he admitted. “Some are overstated. Unsubstantiated slander of a new industry by news media has consequences.”

In specific, this type of media response has penalties on coverage selections. “I have had policymaker staff members tell me, ‘my boss reads the headlines about drones’ – Is that all she reads before legislating?”

It’s simple to see the place Schulman is coming from right here. With measures in place together with geofencing round prisons and airports, it’s protected to say that DJI is doing what it will possibly to cease rogue pilots.

The conclusion is easy: Instead of searching for attention-grabbing headlines, editors ought to suppose twice earlier than leaping the gun and demonizing drone expertise with out adequate proof. We ought to all be extra cautious about the influence poorly-chosen phrases might have on an trade nonetheless discovering its method.

Malek Murison is a contract author and editor with a ardour for tech developments and innovation.
Email Malek

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