QUT students attend the third annual World of Drones Congress

By T.J. Thomson/ Journalism
Attendees learned from experts about using uncrewed aerial vehicles for everything from journalism to scientific monitoring and search and rescue operations.

More than 50 QUT journalism students were among the hundreds of delegates who attended the two-day conference hosted at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre from 26-27 September, 2019.

The students, enrolled in KJB222: Online Journalism, attended and reported on a two-hour session during the 26 September portion on how drones are being used in business, entertainment, and journalistic contexts.

The session featured eight presenters from Australia, the UK, and the US, including Carys Kaiser, a freelance drone operator who has worked extensively for the BBC.

Following this session, QUT journalism students were treated to an exclusive, 90-minute session with Kaiser, who shared more intimately with the students about her work, the ethics of using drones in journalism, and the technology’s benefits and drawbacks.

Freelance drone operator for the BBC, Carys Kaiser, speaks to a crowd of more than 50 QUT journalism students during an exclusive, 90-minute session where students saw a behind-the-scenes look at Kaiser’s life and work and discussed how drones are framed in popular discourse. Photo by Dr T.J. Thomson

Dual-degree Bachelor of Business/Bachelor of Journalism student Alice Leggett was one of those who reported on the Congress and chose to focus her article on the environmental and scientific uses of drones. Leggett noted in her assessment that drones are attractive for scientific research because they can easily allow scientists to study and analyse places they can’t normally or easily reach. When drones are equipped with heat-sensing cameras, they can also be used, for example, to locate tree-top-dwelling animals, like monkeys, that that can be hard to spot while on foot, allowing scientists to more easily locate and study these creatures.

“Attending the World of Drones Congress was a really great opportunity for journalism students,” Leggett said.

“I really enjoyed having the opportunity to learn about drones, which are becoming increasingly relevant in the media landscape, and hear about how this technology is evolving.”

QUT journalism students, armed with pen and paper or laptops, take notes while listening to and watching UK-based drone operator Carys Kaiser speak about her experience flying drones for the BBC.
Image by Dr T.J. Thomson.

Leggett said reporting on the event, which featured experts from fields as diverse as entertainment industries to marine biology, was challenging yet rewarding.

“I was excited to speak directly with some of the presenters,” Leggett said.

“Studying journalism at QUT has really helped me get a foot in the door as I’ve been encouraged to get involved with real media since my first week of uni.”

“QUT journalism has also taken me interstate and overseas, providing me with valuable learning and connection-building experiences.”

KJB222: Online Journalism is coordinated by journalism lecturer Susan Hetherington, who organised the exclusive conversation with Kaiser and facilitated the students’ access to the Congress. Hetherington frequently invites working journalists into her lectures and devises innovative ways to ensure her students have real-world learning opportunities.

“In a world where fake news is often difficult to distinguish from the real thing, professional journalists need to find new ways to stamp their credibility, cut through the noise and continue to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,” Hetherington said.

“That means both improving on the things we’ve always done as well as finding new ways.”

QUT journalism lecturer Susan Hetherington enjoys a joke with freelance drone operator Carys Kaiser during the first day of the 2019 World of Drones Congress in Brisbane. Image by Dr T.J. Thomson.

KJB222: Online Journalism will be offered as CJB203: Newsroom and CJB302: Newsdesk as part of the new Bachelor Communication degree that the QUT School of Communication launched in 2019.

The school offers five study areas: digital media, entertainment industries, journalism, professional communication, and advertising and public relations. The School and its Digital Media Research Centre are currently ranked first in Australia and 16th globally within the communications and media studies area, according to the 2019 QS World University rankings.