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K-State Today

January 21, 2016



New course explores intersection of media and unmanned aircraft systems

By A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications

Students in the A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications are studying the latest information-gathering devices in a new course, Drones in the Media.

The course, team-taught by four members of the school's faculty, exposes students to the legal and ethical implications of using unmanned aerial systems for journalistic and advertising purposes. Students will learn about how UAS are already being used in professional industries and even learn how to operate UAS through hands-on practice.

As the use, and misuse, of UAS has made international headlines, the commercial UAS industry has been growing at breakneck pace. The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International estimates UAS already has an economic impact of $13 billion in the U.S., with projected growth to $82 billion by 2025.

"The legal landscape for drone use seems to be evolving every single day, which makes it ripe material for the classroom," said Kelly Furnas, an assistant professor and lead instructor for the course. "And from an ethical perspective, the use — or regulation — of UAS prompts discussion of Americans' rights to privacy, as well as First Amendment rights. Those students with UAS expertise will be uniquely positioned to take part in that national dialogue."

Birgit Wassmuth, director of the A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications, and also an instructor for the course, praised the team-teaching approach to the development of the course.

"Each instructor in this course brings a special area of expertise that the students will benefit from," Wassmuth said. "I'm proud that this course can serve as a model for our future offerings, not only in terms of cutting-edge content, but also in terms of faculty collaboration."

Other instructors in the course are Tom Hallaq, assistant professor, and graduate student Nick Homburg.

The course in the A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications is part of a larger interdisciplinary effort at Kansas State University to teach UAS operation and application. In October, Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus unveiled its Unmanned Aircraft Systems Pavilion, one of the largest enclosed flight facilities for UAS in the nation.

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