Considering that Paul Reuter had used pigeons to carry messages on stock markets between Aachen in Germany and Brussels in Belgium in the mid-19th century, it is hardly surprising that the news agency founded by him should move with the times to consider employing drones or unmanned flying vehicles in aid of its operations. To look further into the future, it is conceivable that just as the telegraph ousted the pigeons, new inventions may even replaced the drones, which have attained notoriety in recent years because of their military usage, notably in the Af-Pak region.
However, as is evident from the report released by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, entitled Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems and Journalism: Opportunities and Challenges of Drones in News Gathering, it is only a question of time before these flying vehicles will be seen parked in the offices of the print and visual media. As it is, objects of this nature have already been used on several occasions. In 2010, the paparazzi flew a camera-plane to surreptitiously take pictures of Paris Hilton when she was vacationing in the French Riviera. The producers of Australian TV programme 60 Minutes used a drone to obtain footage of an island prison.
As the advantages of such operations become evident, especially the fact that photographers will no longer have to venture too close to scenes of violence, drones are likely to be increasingly favoured by the news organisations. There is the possibility, of course, that they may be shot down. Guidelines will be needed, therefore, about their deployment in consonance with legal and official regulations. But since drones are likely to be deployed more often than not on missions which may not be to the government’s liking, the need to abide by the basic journalistic norms will have to be kept in mind.