DJI Phantom drone
Watch the birdie.Reuters

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a drone reporter! Several major US media companies began a drone pilot project Tuesday on a Virginia rest range to see how effective they are at grabbing news and aerial views.

The New York Times, Washington Post and Thomson Reuters are among 15 media companies that launched the drone test operations. Reporters and photographers will pilot the drones to take photos and video of simulated news events in a series of locations, "including remote regions and urban environments," according to the Holland & Knight law firm, which is representing the companies, reports Motherboard.

The operations will first focus on rural areas at an old airstrip and then will undertake "suburban simulations over unoccupied buildings," said lawyer Chuck Tobin.

The flights will be some of the first of their kind in cooperation with Virginia Tech University, which has been designated as one of the Federal Aviation Administration's six "test sites" to monitor drone safety.

Besides participating in the field testing drones, at least one representative from each media company will also attend a day-long training session with the FAA.

Drones are already used occasionally by media companies as the the FAA continues to finalise rules on the legal use of commercial drones. Last year, several media companies filed a petition with the FAA to allow their drones in the skies, arguing that drone journalism should be a protected First Amendment right.