Drone World Expo – Exclusive Board Member Interviews – Gregory Agvent | CNN

Gregory AgventTo find out what inspires their interest in UAS and attracts the Advisory Board Members to support Drone World Expo, we scheduled a series of exclusive interviews.

First up is Gregory Agvent, Senior Director, News Operations at CNN. Agvent is responsible for designing and executing the technical, logistical and production strategies to support CNN’s multi-platform editorial mission. Based in Atlanta, he has worked extensively with both the Editorial and Technical leadership in developing CNN’s broadcast coverage of virtually every significant domestic news story of the last decade.

Question: What motivates your interest in UAS in general and your support of Drone World Expo in particular.

Answer: One of my interests has  always been “applied technology” – in particular as to how it impacts journalism and news-gathering. Drones are just one of many new technologies changing our business, but one with potentially far reaching impact. Regarding Drone World Expo, At CNN, we believe it’s imperative to take a leadership role in helping to shape the developing UAS ecosystem and one way to do that is by being involved in groups with similar interests.

Question: CNN was the first news broadcaster to get FAA approval to test camera-equipped drones for news-gathering and reporting purposes. How is the partnership with Georgia Tech Research progressing…?

Answer: It’s a great partnership, two leaders in their respective fields working together to research new opportunities….its been a very productive relationship. We bring our expertise in journalism and news production, Our colleagues at Georgia Tech bring their critical engineering eye to the project – they keep us honest and provide the research documentation and hardware and software assessments necessary  for our efforts to be valuable in helping to validate the flight concepts we think are representative of news-gathering by drone.  We’ve flown many research flights and twice already in real life situations; in Selma, in advance of the 50th anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” civil rights march…and just recently at the Oklahoma City National Memorial.

Question: Some people complain that the FAA is dragging its feet – others point out that they have a massive responsibility for air safety and that can’t be rushed. How do you see the FAA’s approach…?

Answer: In a word: prudent. Safety is their mission, period. Recently the FAA has made several operational changes that have streamlined their processes and made it easier for those already qualified, the 333 exempt, to fly. They’ve also sped up the 333 process as a whole and in February released their NPRM.  While there are those critical of the draft rules, I consider them a start, a step in the right direction.

Question: What do you see as being the advantage(s) of using drones for news reporting ?

Answer: What i’ve been most impressed with so far – is the intimacy, and uniqueness that drone based aerial imagery can add to storytelling. Context and perspective are two other key elements…and I want to point out that we are looking beyond video….sensors onboard drones  can help develop data that can also help to tell the story. I hear a lot of guys talking about cost savings as a benefit, that may turn out to be true, but i don’t think thats what should drive the conversation, I think drones are another tool in the newsgathering toolkit – they wont replace the news helicopter…they’ll supplement the news helicopter.

Question: What do you see as being the main hurdles to be overcome on the path towards liberating the use of drones by the media..?

Answer:  There are several hurdles, but the first hurdle to clear is the “private pilots license” requirement, followed closely by the prohibition of flights over people. I imagine we will see some movement on the pilots license requirement before too long….flights over people is the biggest safety hurdle, and i think will require more time, more thought and a track record of safe operations before we clear that one.

Question: Is the industry doing a satisfactory PR job on allaying the public’s fears about safety and privacy…?

Answer: At the moment, drones ARE the news – the capabilities of these craft have far outpaced the regulation surrounding their use.  “Use common sense” is simply not enough of a message when it comes to safety. The industry certainly has to play a more significant role in this area- but its more than a just a PR campaign….


[UAS Vision is an Official Media Partner for Drone World Expo – Ed.]

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