Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Journalistic Disruption: Perspectives of early professional adopters

Valerie Belair-Gagnon, Taylor Owen, Avery E. Holton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


In recent years, there has been a surge in research on small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in news production and news audience engagement. Most of this research has focused on legal, ethical, and regulatory implications of UAVs in newsgathering, while paying less attention to the journalists’ perspectives. To fill this gap in the academic literature, this article explores the ethical principles that guide journalists who use UAVs, how they have worked within these ethical principles, and how they can serve as disruptive innovators. Semi-structured interviews with 13 UAV early adopters reveal that legal and regulatory restraints on UAVs facilitated the emergence of a new form of norm entrepreneur inside journalistic institutions. These individuals were able to experiment on the fringes of acceptable practice. In so doing, they seeded their organizations with the skill set and institutional capacity to engage constructively with the use of UAVs once constraints were lifted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1226-1239
Number of pages14
JournalDigital Journalism
Issue number10
StatePublished - Nov 26 2017


  • disruptive innovation
  • drones
  • early adopters
  • innovation
  • journalism
  • news gathering
  • news production
  • unmanned aerial vehicles


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