Stunning video footage like that from a recent tornado in Arkansas (see below) shows the potential for drones to radically change journalism. However, it's illegal to operate them in the US, especially near a disaster or accident scene -- which has prompted a new research project from CNN and the Georgia Institute of Technology. The aim is to figure out which type of equipment, personnel and safety measures would be needed to safely operate news-gathering drones in US airspace. While such UAVs would no doubt give media outlets like CNN improved coverage, they'd often end up in close proximity to crowds, emergency personnel and even rescue aircraft. That means US regulators might be reluctant to approve them for reporting -- even though they've already authorized lower-risk activities like pipeline inspection. CNN's group hopes to show the FAA that it can be made safe for journalism, likely so that it won't be frozen out when new drone regulations are finally announced.

[Image credit: Brian Emfinger via YouTube]