Drone Assisted Reporting at BND Headquarters


Flying a drone at a protest march

This summer I bought an AR parrot drone. It’s basically the cheapest drone one can get and you stear it with your smart phone via WiFi.

Several reasons led to the purchase:

  • Drones are flying robots you control, pretty cool
  • OKF Germany has a youth hack day coming up, kids will love it
  • The Node Copter movement makes the Parrot hackable
  • Elsewhere drones kill people, let’s make our air space more civil
  • Drone Assisted Reporting or Drone Journalism

About two weeks ago there was a protest march in front of the new BND headquarters and I thought it would be a perfect time to bring the drone: peek over the construction wall, spy back with new technology and provide some drone coverage of the demonstration.

Afterwards, I had some ideas about how to integrate a drone video of an event with a report and came up with this:

A Walk along the new BND Headquarters

It’s far from perfect and I blame the lack of a story and the bad material – I had to edit out a lot (see also the Lessons Learned section). The report is more of an example of drone driven reporting (the new DDJ, tell your friends).

I coupled the page section scrolling with the video (but not the other way around), so that when you read through the sections you see the related video. Scrolling the text in sync with the video didn’t make sense to me. The map is synchronized with the video. I used Popcorn.js to make everything work together.

All journalists who asked me about the drone at the event got the same reply: get one of your own or at least one for your newsroom. They are cheap and you don’t have to be a pilot to fly the thing.

Drone Assisted Reporting will be normal in a couple of years – and to some extent already is when you read stories about new techniques of paparazzis.

I’m sure drones are not only good for peeking at celebrities though. They can drive legitimate and interesting stories: covering protests, reporting on natural disasters or filming exclusive lobbyist rooftop meetings.

Pictures of the drone flying in front of the BND building got picked up by dpa and made it into a couple of news articles.