A great idea means very little without execution.
However, if early results produced by the Berkshire Eagle’s new drone are any indication of what’s to come, the paper may soon find itself serving as a blueprint for success with the emerging technology.
“Not only are we here in the newsroom excited by our drone we call ‘The Eagle,’ but our readers are as well,” said Kevin Moran, editor of the Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, Mass. “So far, they’ve been fascinated by our initial forays and their response has been positive and appreciative, too. The drone offers readers a level of perspective we haven’t been able to provide them before.”
The first flights made by the drone, a DJI Phantom 3 professional quadcopter, took place at several nearby locations that featured both interesting terrain and an open landscape to practice. These sites included Holiday Brook farm in Dalton, Pontoosuc Lake in Pittsfield and Hancock Shaker Village, where it captured an overhead of the historic Round Stone Barn.
Hans Morris, one of four partners who purchased the paper last April, inspired the news team to engage in obtaining all of the steps necessary to operate a fully licensed drone to help cover the news.
“It offers an opportunity to have much more dramatic images,” Morris said. “We also have large audiences here in the Berkshires during the summer, so I could envision some incredible shots of the crowd at Tanglewood on the lawn, or Wilco performing at MASS MoCA with the mountains as a backdrop.”
Moran tasked photo editor and photographer Ben Garver with conducting research and helping put the proposal together for a process that took about four months to complete from idea to first flight. In order to operate the drone, Garver was required to study for weeks and successfully pass the FAA knowledge test for his pilot’s license for unmanned aircraft.
“This is an amazing photographic tool, but it is also a powerful aircraft,” Garver said. “We want to use it with authority, and that means learning the law and finding ways to use the drone safely while adding to our photo report. We are early in the game right now, but I think it will be ideal for showing context in spot news and the scale of events.”
Garver emphasized that despite the positive reaction of the initial images captured by The Eagle, he’ll continue to take a slow but steady approach with how he handles their new gadget.
“In agreement with the leadership, we are starting with pretty safe subjects and moving to others as my skill level increases,” Garver said. “Breaking news coverage is on the horizon, but we’ll experiment safely and within the law. We’ll expand use with skills.”