StateCollege.com to Use Drones to Enhance News Coverage and deliver pizzas
State College news will soon be covered in a way never before seen — Terminator style.
Imagine idling at a red light at the intersection of Curtin Road and University Drive. You flip down the mirror to check your hair, maybe dab on a fresh layer of MAC lipstick.
The light hasn’t changed, and you’re losing patience. And then you see it. A remote-controlled helicopter-like droid flying toward Beaver Stadium, traveling, you guess, 20 m.p.h.
Well, this can now happen.
StateCollege.com has amped up its innovative coverage of the area in the last two years and continues to make strides with the addition of a fleet of 20 quadcopters. Using autonomous GPS wave-points, the copters can dispatch to any breaking news event in State College within 10 minutes, bringing the next revolution to the market place.
“This is a game-changer,” said Dan Myers, CEO and publisher at StateCollege.com. “We’ve seen the Patch model. Now we’ve eliminated the human element.”
Preliminary testing of the quadcopters, also called UAVs (Unmanned Ariel Vehicles) will start next weekend, and the company hopes to be able to use the copters in a full capacity Blue-White weekend taking shots from above and around Beaver Stadium as well as interesting POV video.
Each quadcopter can fly for up to an hour, and it can take photos and record video at angles and locations a TV news camera can’t reach. Air Traffic Control restricts you from flying higher than 500 feet, but that will still allow for the copter to shoot an aerial shot of a night game at Beaver Stadium with the crowd doused in white.
Football practice closed to the media?
StateCollege.com can now drop the copter on the roof of Holuba Hall and film every one of Penn State’s practices, redefining transparency and bringing you up-to-the-minute updates.
Copters were designed at the GRASP Lab at the University of Pennsylvania, and StateCollege.com plans on purchasing 20 quadcopters valued at $5,000 a piece, Myers said.
For a preview video of the quadcopters, click here.
“We think the quadcopters are an excellent addition to the watch-dog efforts of our community,” State College Police Chief Tom King said. “It’s important that residents know their privacy won’t be compromised and these copters will not be used in conjunction with borough task forces.”
Copters are water-proof, so inclement weather will not keep the droids tucked away in the StateCollege.com office.
Another innovative aspect of the quadcopters is its delivery system. StateCollege.com is in the process of reaching agreements with several downtown and local restaurants that will enable the copters to deliver food to students and residents.
Online payment would be settled through PayPal, and food would be limited to tacos, pizza slices, sandwiches and salads, for weight purposes.
Because of the GPS tracking service, any foul play or theft of the copters can easily be traced, and offenders are subject to a fine, King said.
“This is a way for us to tap into the delivery service,” said Jennifer Zangrilli, the Dante’s director of operations, which oversees many downtown restaurants, including The Deli. “There’s a limit to what we can push out to people, but I think it’s kind of cool to have your food flown through your dorm window.”
StateCollege.com has broadened its horizons in recent months, and the quadcopters are merely the next step.
The news organization hired its first-ever Editor-in-Chief in February when Ron Musselman came aboard from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Musselman will be in charge of running the first-ever UAV fleet of its kind.
Time-lapse cameras, live streaming capabilities, a social media crush and other software programs have boosted coverage. The partnership with the student-run Penn State blog Onward State has tapped into a student audience that is vital to any news organization covering State College.
“We’re ready to soar to new heights,” Myers said.
Can’t believe it?
Check the date.
Happy April’s Fools Day.