WOOD TV8 broadcasts first live drone video in W. Michigan

Drone 8 on the day of its debut. (Nov. 4, 2015)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – WOOD TV8 is once again breaking new ground in the way news is covered in West Michigan.

The station conducted the first live drone video broadcast in West Michigan history during 24 Hour News 8 at Noon on Wednesday, Nov. 4.

Dubbed “Drone 8,” the craft provided live aerial images over the newly-opened M-231 bridge in Ottawa County. Drone 8 is the first federally-sanctioned drone aircraft cleared for media use in West Michigan.

“WOOD TV has been a long-time leader in innovation. We have an extensive history of finding fresh and faster ways to bring West Michigan the news – and views – needed to have a better perspective on the stories impacting our communities,” WOOD TV8 General Manager Diane Kniowski said.

The drone can be used to record video or provide live aerial footage, offering a one-of-a-kind take on news and weather around the viewing area.

WOOD TV8 News Director Dan Boers said Drone 8 is all about bringing the viewer closer to stories the station covers.

“This will allow us to take our viewers where we couldn’t before,” Boers said. “It will allow them to have a better visual understanding of the stories we cover.”

The drone must be operated by a licensed pilot along with a trained observer and requires strict adherence to Federal Aviation Administration standards and guidelines. It also requires that flights are registered in advance and logs are provided to the FAA.

Storm Team 8 Meteorologist Kyle Underwood is the licensed pilot behind the controls. He spent weeks training in West Michigan and Colorado to become qualified to operate Drone 8.

“I’ve learned a lot through this process,” Underwood said. “The rules for commercial drone flight are actually more restrictive than manned aircraft. Safety is a serious consideration. This aircraft will be an important visual storytelling tool for us. The bonus is we’re having a great time flying it!”

The drone used by WOOD TV8 uses is a DJI Inspire 1 model, which provides 360-degree views from above. The FAA granted Media General, WOOD TV8’s parent company, the ability to fly this specific drone for news gathering purposes.

Media General is one of the nation’s largest connected-screen media companies that operates or services 71 television stations in 48 markets, along with the industry’s leading digital media business.

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