The brand new KING 5 Drone is not an off-the-shelf retail model. It’s one of the best professional drones available.
The FAA has strict regulations for commercial and business operators, like TV stations, and only FAA-licensed remote pilots can control the aircraft.
News Operation Manager Greg Thies is one of these licensed pilots and also oversees drone safety for KING 5's parent company, TEGNA. He says consistency in training is a focus.
“We have regional trainers to train each of the chief pilots at all our stations so that the message is the same, and everybody is very strict to the checklists and the pre-flight and the briefings that we do and fly these aircraft safely,” Thies said.
Facebook video: Watch from the drone camera
Those FAA rules outline where we can fly the drone, and say it can’t fly at night, or over people unless we have a special waiver. In addition to the FAA rules, our company has adopted our own, stricter internal policies. They mandate we always have two people present when we fly.
Safety and your privacy are our top priorities.
“These aircraft are wonderful aircraft and have cameras on them, but they are very wide angle lenses. There’s nothing here that would zoom into windows to look into buildings,” Thies said. “The rules that we follow we are not here to invade privacy.”
The drone always has to be in visual range. It generally has to fly under 400 feet. To give you an idea of how high that is, the Smith Tower in downtown Seattle is 462 feet.
Photojournalist Dave Wike shot video from SkyKING for more than 30 years. Usually, news helicopters fly above 1,000 feet so he’s excited about what the drone can do.
“Aerials are just a wonderful way to tell stories,” Wike said. “We’ll be able to take it on almost any circumstance, and provided we’re within the limitations of the rules, we’ll be able to give people perspective on stories that we probably couldn’t do with the helicopter.”
“It’s a great tool that we can use to get a better perspective on a lot of events in our area to bring new sights and vistas to folks that we haven’t been able to do before,” Thies added.
We've named our drone "Dexter." Longtime KING 5 viewers know our station used to be located on Dexter Avenue in South Lake Union. Now we’re using part of our history as we take off into this new time of technology.
Now we just have to figure out how to make him a little yellow jacket.