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News organizations form coalition to test drones

Ten news organizations, including The New York Times and the Associated Press, formed a coalition with Virginia Tech to test unmanned aircraft systems, UAS, for news gathering, the media companies said in a joint statement Thursday.

“The partnership … is designed to conduct controlled safety testing of a series of real-life scenarios where the news media could use small UAS technology to gather the news,” the statement read.

Partners also include Gannett, Getty Images, NBC Universal, the E.W. Scripps Company and The Washington Post. The announcement also follows CNN’s partnership with the Georgia Tech Research Institute to perform similar research for the FAA.

The companies will share the resulting data with the Federal Aviation Administration to help the agency release the long-awaited proposed rules for commercial drones that would better integrate them into the national airspace.

The FAA has repeatedly faced delays and missed their deadline to issue those rules by the end of 2014. Once the agency does, it will take about two to three years before the regulations can be finalized, the Associated Press reported.

Except for a series of piecemeal exemptions, there’s a FAA ban on commercial drone flights.

Last summer, several news organizations criticized the FAA’s ban as an “overly broad policy” that “has an impermissible chilling effect on the First Amendment newsgathering rights of journalists.”

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