FORT MYERS, Fla. - It looks like a toy. Maybe it's a tool.
"It's kind of both," David Plazas says, "it really is a tool that can be used for good quality journalism."
It's a drone and it's flying above Southwest Florida. Our partners at the News-Press are the first local organization to purchase the unmanned aircraft. A few hundred dollars and a smart phone is all you need to take to the skies.
Plazas, the Engagement Editor and Drone Pilot for the News-Press Media Group, uses his iPhone to control the drone.
"The biggest challenge was the wind, this is only a 4.2 pound toy, so it's very susceptible to the elements," Plazas explains.
"Battery life is not great, it's about 12 to 14 minutes, but it's enough time to get us some pretty good quality video."
The Edison Festival of Light last month was the inaugural use of the drone. But the Southwest Florida news organization has grand plans in mind.
"Imagine you could be in a place where you need to get a view of an accident or get a view of a crime scene, these are the types of things you can do to give the public a better view of what's going on," Plazas said.
The use of drones brings new legal and ethical questions. For instance, FAA rules says if you're flying within five miles of an airport, you need to let the tower know ahead of time. The drone must also stay in the operator's line of sight at all times.
"We're mindful of the ethical issues, we would never peer into someone's window," Plazas said, to ease the concerns of privacy advocates.
But you do see plenty of people peering at the drone.
"People are fascinated and they're asking questions, and I'm glad that they are," Plazas said, "we should be transparent about the tools that we have."