COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — After FOX21 News took to the skies with SKYFOX21, we got some questions about how the device works and how we’ll be using it.
Here are some answers to frequently asked questions.
What is SKYFOX21?
SKYFOX21 is a DJI Inspire 1 model quadcopter powered by four individually powered electric motors. It has onboard GPS, an altimeter for altitude detection through changes in air pressure and a sonar and camera combination facing downward for detecting altitude.
What kind of camera does SKYFOX21 have?
A Zenmuse X3 with a fixed-length wide angle lens. It can capture video from up to 4k resolution (four times higher resolution that standard HD) and still images up to 12 megapixels in jpeg or raw. The camera is attached to a stabilized three-axis gimbal.
Give me some cool stats on SKYFOX21.
While it is capable of flying almost three miles high, we are limited to 200 or 400 feet of altitude (depending on the scenario) by Federal Aviation Administration regulations. The drone can fly faster than 50 mph and weighs about five pounds. Maximum flight time is about 20 minutes per battery.
Can you broadcast live with SKYFOX21?
Yes. Both controllers output 720p HD video that we can connect to a backpack transmitter or a live truck.
Is SKYFOX21 on social media?
Two controllers? Why?
For safety and quality of video, we always use an FAA-licensed airplane pilot to fly the aircraft and a qualified visual observer who operates the camera and assists the pilot to ensure safe operation.
Do you operate differently than amateurs with drones?
Yes. Commercial operation is not allowed without a section 333 waiver from the FAA. FOX21’s parent company, Media General, petitioned the FAA for a waiver so we can operate commercially. In order to operate a drone in this capacity, there are many rules we must follow to comply. Amateur operators do not have the same strict rules we have, and sadly some amateur operators don’t follow rules at all, such as not flying over people and flying too close to manned aircraft.
What are some of the FAA rules FOX21 has to comply with?
SKYFOX21 will stay well clear of people and structures without their prior consent. We only fly below 400 feet above ground level. The aircraft must be controlled by a licensed airplane pilot and he or she must be assisted by a visual observer to maintain safe flight at all times. A NOTAM (notice to airmen) must be filed with the FAA in advance to provide adequate warning to manned aircraft.
What about my privacy?
SKYFOX21 operators are required to stay well clear of any non-participants and any building without the owner’s permission. In other words, we’ll need your permission before we take any video of you or the immediate area you are in. The same protections apply whether you are on public or private property.
Why does SKYFOX21 have a tail number?
In order to operate commercially, SKYFOX21 is registered with the FAA. The tail number (commonly called N-number in the United States) is N221TV.
For what kind of news stories is SKYFOX21 dispatched?
Any story where we can operate safely and give our viewers a better view of what we’re explaining.
Why don’t other TV stations have their own drones?
FOX21 is the first station in Colorado and one of just a handful in the nation to operate their own drone. The legal hurdles are significant and it requires significant planning and resources. As restrictions are relaxed and costs come down, commercially operated drones will become more common news gathering tools.
Why not a real helicopter?
A news helicopter powered by a turbine engine can cost as much as $1,500 per hour to operate and burn more than 30 gallons of jet fuel per hour with two or more people on board. While manned helicopters have an excellent safety record, unmanned drones are even safer.