Is drone journalism for real?
I think that my best shoot at answering this question is finding existing scenarios in which drone-driven journalism worked where the alternative would either be too risky or unviable.
Drones were used to photograph 4th of July fireworks in Nashville. While it might be possible to do the same in a helicopter, I believe that the risk of an accident is considerably high (ignition + fuel + human pilot).
Drones are also perfectly able to shoot footage of erupting volcanos from frighteningly close distances, as with the eruption of Mount Yasur on Tanna Island, Vanuatu.
Efforts to both report about and monitor the environment require an extraordinary reach, from deep jungles to arid deserts. Drones have been used to shoot footage of wild animals in a joint effort between CCTV Africa, and AfricanSkyCam. From looking at the footage, drones are more likely to be less disruptive, less detectable than the typical “safari-like” approaches to wild life journalism. They have, I feel, the potentiality to become a way to gain great insight into other species behavior, especially with the possibility of decreasing their sizes even further.
While this is hardly a journalism use case, but one can argue that it falls right in the investigative reporting arena. Despite bureaucratic resistance, drones were used for cases of missing persons. They are an ideal tool for that: they are cheap, fast, and commercially available for both journalists and the families of the missing.
Improving journalism practices.
Drones are a wonderful tool to improve the *content* produced through long-standing journalism practices. For instance, a Santa Barbra high school made a point of using a drone in their student-produced journalist content. To me, it makes the whole process much more engaging for them, I feel.
Reporting heavily censored political activism.
It is hardly a surprise at this stage. Drones were used to cover unrest in the US, Thailand, and Scotland to name but a few.