Civilian drone

Three BBC journalists were questioned and released by Swiss police for operating a drone in a no-fly-zone at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland last month according to The Guardian.

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A BBC spokeswoman admitted to The Guardian on Monday that the incident was a mistake by the operators as the media organization awaits a possible fine by Swiss authorities.

The security breach comes amid heightened tensions in Europe following the terror attack in Paris last month and threats throughout the continent. At the conference in Davos, security concerns were amplified ahead of the annual event, which ran a $9 million security budget that included 26 miles of fencing and a no-fly-zone that extended 25-miles around the conference’s location.

Despite the violation, the BBC has had an impressive repertoire of using drones, including most recently a fly-over of the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. Published to YouTube just last week, the video has been viewed almost 5 million times.

The BBC is currently one of only a few media organizations in the world to have its own drone journalism team, which started researching and building their drones as early as 2012. The team’s early entrance into drone journalism was also helped by regulations set in place by the United Kingdom’s Civil Aviation Authority, which has guidelines governing the use of drones in journalism and other commercial purposes.

In order to operate a drone for commercial purposes, applicants must take a written pilot’s test as well as a flying test specifically geared towards unmanned aerial vehicles. Once licensed, pilots are restricted to flying within the line of sight and no more than 500 meters off the ground.

In the United States, the rules around the use of drones in news-gathering and broader commercial purposes are still in the works. But as recently as last month, 10 news organizations, including The New York Times, The Associated Press, and Gannett GCI +3.97% announced that they would be working with Virginia Tech to test the use of drones to gather news.