Documenting climate change - with a drone

NEW YORK, Sept 20 (Reuters) - When Reuters photographer Lucas Jackson headed to Greenland in June, he traveled with a heavy, oversized rolling bag containing a crucial piece of equipment to document climate change.

Jackson, one of a handful of Reuters photographers licensed to operate a drone, spent seven rainy days camped alongside Greenland's Helheim glacier, near the small seaside village of Tasiilaq.

Using an Inspire 1 Pro drone, Jackson captured more than 700 gigabytes of footage and images in Greenland.

Drones are an emerging tool for newsgathering, but they potentially pose several legal and ethical challenges, including the violation of privacy.

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Until now, Reuters has used drones only on rare occasions. But Greenland provided a perfect opportunity since a drone is inexpensive to operate. By contrast, renting a helicopter can cost thousands of dollars per day.

The drone offered Jackson the ideal way to procure bird's eye shots and video of icebergs and glaciers as well as footage of scientists monitoring rising sea levels, without disrupting their research.

"People are tempted to use a drone just to use a drone," Jackson says. "They should be used to get a perspective at an elevated angle that would be too risky or costly to get without a drone."

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Drone photos of glacier show impact of climate change
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Drone photos of glacier show impact of climate change
An iceberg floats in a fjord near the town of Tasiilaq, Greenland, June 24, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson SEARCH "JACKSON GREENLAND" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Principal Investigator Josh Willis looks out at the Greenland ice sheet from inside of a NASA Gulfstream III flying above Greenland to measure loss to the country's ice sheet as part of the Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) research mission, March 13, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Glacial flow is seen out the window of a NASA Gulfstream III flight to support the Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) research mission above the east coast of Greenland, March 13, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson SEARCH "JACKSON GREENLAND" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Safety officer Brian Rougeux works with student Febin Magar to assemble a radar dome while working in a science camp on the side of the Helheim glacier near Tasiilaq, Greenland, June 20, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson SEARCH "JACKSON GREENLAND" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Meltwater pools are seen on top of the Helheim glacier near Tasiilaq, Greenland, June 19, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson SEARCH "JACKSON GREENLAND" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Radar Engineer, Ron Muellerschoen, monitors data collection inside a NASA Gulfstream III flying above Greenland to measure loss to the country's ice sheet as part of the Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) research mission, March 12, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson SEARCH "JACKSON GREENLAND" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A glacial terminus is seen from the window during a NASA flight to support the Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) research mission above the east coast of Greenland, March 13, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson SEARCH "JACKSON GREENLAND" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
Student Febin Magar watches as leftover wood burns in a research camp on the side of the Helheim glacier near Tasiilaq, Greenland, June 20, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson SEARCH "JACKSON GREENLAND" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Safety officer Brian Rougeux uses a drill to install antennas for scientific instruments that will be left on top of the Helheim glacier near Tasiilaq, Greenland, June 19, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson SEARCH "JACKSON GREENLAND" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Oceanographer David Holland works with student Febin Magar to inspect a seismograph in their science camp on the side of the Helheim glacier near Tasiilaq, Greenland, June 20, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson SEARCH "JACKSON GREENLAND" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Tabular icebergs float in the Sermilik Fjord after a large calving event at the Helheim glacier near Tasiilaq, Greenland, June 23, 2018. This portion between the glacier front and the open ocean is known as the "melange" and is filled with ice, snow and icebergs packed together on their way to a fjord and later the ocean. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson SEARCH "JACKSON GREENLAND" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
An iceberg floats in a fjord near the town of Tasiilaq, Greenland, June 18, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson SEARCH "JACKSON GREENLAND" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Meltwater pools are seen on top of the Helheim glacier near Tasiilaq, Greenland, June 19, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson SEARCH "JACKSON GREENLAND" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Oceanographer David Holland (C) eats with Denise Holland (L), safety officer Brian Rougeux and student Febin Magar (R) in their science camp on the side of the Helheim glacier near Tasiilaq, Greenland, June 19, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson SEARCH "JACKSON GREENLAND" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Safety officer Brian Rougeux carries a piece of a radar dome while working in a science camp on the side of the Helheim glacier near Tasiilaq, Greenland, June 20, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson SEARCH "JACKSON GREENLAND" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Oceanographer David Holland repairs a broken GPS module at his research camp above the Helheim glacier near Tasiilaq, Greenland, June 20, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson SEARCH "JACKSON GREENLAND" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Glacial ice is seen from the window during a NASA flight to support the Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) research mission above the east coast of Greenland, March 13, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson SEARCH "JACKSON GREENLAND" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Sunshine lights up the Helheim glacier near Tasiilaq, Greenland, June 22, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson SEARCH "JACKSON GREENLAND" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
An aerial photograph of Oceanographer David Holland's science camp on the side of the Helheim glacier near Tasiilaq, Greenland, June 20, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson SEARCH "JACKSON GREENLAND" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Airplane Mechanic, David Fuller (L), works with a local worker to move a NASA Gulfstream III during a pre-flight inspection before a flight to support the Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) research mission, March 12, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson SEARCH "JACKSON GREENLAND" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Airplane Mechanic, David Fuller, inspects a NASA Gulfstream III during a pre-flight inspection before a flight to support the Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) research mission, March 12, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson SEARCH "JACKSON GREENLAND" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Radar Engineer Ron Muellerschoen (L), Radar Engineer Tim Miller (C) and Pilot in Command Tom Parent discuss issues with an autopilot system while flying inside a NASA Gulfstream III above Greenland to measure loss to the country's ice sheet as part of the Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) research mission, March 13, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson SEARCH "JACKSON GREENLAND" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
An iceberg floats in a fjord near the town of Tasiilaq, Greenland, June 24, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson SEARCH "JACKSON GREENLAND" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
An iceberg floats in a fjord near the town of Tasiilaq, Greenland, June 24, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson SEARCH "JACKSON GREENLAND" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
An iceberg floats in a fjord near the town of Tasiilaq, Greenland, June 24, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson SEARCH "JACKSON GREENLAND" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
An iceberg floats in a fjord near the town of Tasiilaq, Greenland, June 24, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson SEARCH "JACKSON GREENLAND" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Pilot in Command Tom Parent inspects the exterior of a NASA Gulfstream III during a pre-flight inspection of the aircraft before a flight to support the Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) research mission, March 12, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson SEARCH "JACKSON GREENLAND" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Student Febin Magar watches as safety officer Brian Rougeux burns leftover wood while working in a science camp on the side of the Helheim glacier near Tasiilaq, Greenland, June 20, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson SEARCH "JACKSON GREENLAND" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Safety officer Brian Rougeux unfastens equipment to inspect it while working in a science camp on the side of the Helheim glacier near Tasiilaq, Greenland, June 22, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson SEARCH "JACKSON GREENLAND" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Safety officer Brian Rougeux works to build a semi-permanent structure in a science camp on the side of the Helheim glacier near Tasiilaq, Greenland, June 20, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson SEARCH "JACKSON GREENLAND" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A large crevasse forms near the calving front of the Helheim glacier near Tasiilaq, Greenland, June 22, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson SEARCH "JACKSON GREENLAND" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Denise Holland prepares a meal at a science camp on the side of the Helheim glacier near Tasiilaq, Greenland, June 22, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson SEARCH "JACKSON GREENLAND" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Safety officer Brian Rougeux works to build a semi-permanent structure in a science camp on the side of the Helheim glacier near Tasiilaq, Greenland, June 20, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson SEARCH "JACKSON GREENLAND" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Tabular icebergs float in the Sermilik Fjord after a large calving event at the Helheim glacier near Tasiilaq, Greenland, June 23, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson SEARCH "JACKSON GREENLAND" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
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Reuters has a detailed policy on drone usage, as outlined in the Reuters Handbook of Journalism. That includes steering clear of people, homes, protests or densely populated areas.

"We should apply heightened consideration and sensitivity to ensure our use of drones does not stalk, harass, or intimidate any person, including any subject of our coverage," the handbook says.

According to our rules, drones must be used in daylight hours, at specific altitudes and at a safe distance from an airport. As a result, our use of drones so far has been limited. Reuters journalists still typically take overhead shots from helicopters.

However, drones can shoot images at a lower elevation, often offering more granular details since they can hover in one spot without much movement.

In July, photographer David Gray used a drone to document extreme drought along with its devastating effect on cattle and crops in Eastern Australia. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-australia-drought-widerimage/australias-drought-is-like-a-cancer-eating-away-at-farms-and-families-idUSKBN1KL34C).

The drone let him quietly capture images of farm animals, such as cattle gathered in parched paddocks, without scaring them away.

Any Reuters journalist who uses a drone for newsgathering must be trained and properly credentialed. To obtain a license from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, Jackson studied weather patterns, flight maps and federal drone laws. He also practiced flying a drone with a Reuters colleague in a park in Flushing, New York.

Drones can keep journalists out of harm's way, so they may seem ideal for covering natural disasters, such as a volcanic eruption or hurricanes. But even in these circumstances, Reuters will continue to use drones sparingly because their flight can interfere with search and rescue missions.

For Jackson, the biggest challenge in Greenland was preserving battery life. The drone lost power after 10 minutes, and it took another hour to recharge.

"I didn't have time to experiment," Jackson said. "I had to know which shots I wanted." (Reporting by Lauren Young Editing by Toni Reinhold)

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