Drones to offer new angle on Salvadorian presidential election

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  • January 31, 2014

By Maria Hendrischke

Two media outlets in El Salvador have announced that they are going to use nonmilitary drones to cover the upcoming presidential election. The drones are to provide videos, photos and new perspectives of the Feb. 2 election for the 2014-2019 term, said Salvadorian newspapers El Diario de Hoy and La Prensa Gráfica.

While mainly – and infamously – known for military usage these days, the drone technology could revolutionize the work of photo and video journalists. Drones, also referred to as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), come in various shapes and sizes and accordingly, various potential applications. But what they all have in common is that they have no human pilot on board; instead, they are remotely controlled or steered by a computer.

Both Salvadorian newspapers will employ a quadcopter called DJI Phantom that measures about 14 x 14 inches. According to a graphic by La Prensa Gráfica, the vehicle comes with a high resolution camera and is GPS- and Wi-Fi-enabled, which makes it possible to watch the camera’s shots in real time from the ground. The drone can fly up to an altitude of 2,350 feet, which is higher than common model aircrafts can manage and yet closer to the “action” than a helicopter, points out Álvaro Sagrera, technological director at Grupo Dutriz, the media group La Prensa Gráfica belongs to. The vehicle’s four propellers make it very maneuverable and precise to control.

Taking all these characteristics into account, Gabriel Trillos, editorial director at Grupo Dutriz, said that drones are perfect to produce interesting, detailed bird’s-eye views from a distance, which could be especially useful “in situations where the physical safety of communicators would be at risk, as in police operations or mass events”.

El Salvador’s upcoming election will be the first event in the country for the drones to prove their usefulness in visual reporting. The Salvadorian drones already went through several rehearsals; to see some examples of drone-shot video material, click here.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.