Drone Use At DAPL Site Sparking Headlines, Drawing National Attention

Drone use at the site of protests over the Dakota Access Pipeline’s route through North Dakota first made headlines last month when law enforcement, protesters and journalists began deploying the aircraft.

Reports of  civilian drones being shot down and the Federal Aviation Administration’s declaration of a second temporary flight restriction over the site has since added fuel to the fire and inspired bloggers, lawyers and journalists to weigh in on the situation.

Here’s a sampling of link and excerpts of online posts published recently:

 Drone Wars: North Dakota Land Battle Moves to the Skies

“Drones caused a brief uproar at the North Dakota campsites when three were shot down for allegedly flying too close to a sheriff’s helicopter surveying the area. Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier later said the pilots were “in fear of their lives” while one of the drone’s owners, Dean Dedman Jr., said “the helicopter was not even close.” His drone’s footage had been used to prove that pipeline construction is nearing the Missouri River, which was blocked off by three federal agencies in September, and the other two drones were recording for an Indigenous-run documentary company.”

Why is there a TFR over Standing Rock?

“Let me make it clear that I am not anti-law enforcement. I work with law enforcement on a regular basis, and many of my friends are local, state and federal law enforcement members. I simply do not consider the behavior of the law enforcement members at Standing Rock to be acceptable, or representative of professional law enforcement.”

Flight Restrictions Over Standing Rock: Is The FAA Effectively Taking Sides In Pipeline Dispute?

“Because of the (temporary flight restriction), journalists have been forced to fly “rogue” in order to capture what many see as excessive use of force against demonstrators – including a video of law enforcement using water hoses in sub-freezing weather against what appear to be peaceful protesters.”

The FAA banned journalists from flying drones at the Standing Rock oil pipeline protest

“This is the second temporary flight restriction the FAA has placed over the area. The first was in late October in response to local law enforcement complaining that a drone pilot “flew at a helicopter in a threatening manner,” meaning the drone operator was breaking current FAA rules. Yet the flight restrictions are a blanket ban and also apply to drone operators who act according to the FAA rules to collect aerial video, too.”

In response to questions about the TFR, the FAA did issue a statement, which can be found at the top of this Forbes column. You can read it in its entirety below.

“The Federal Aviation Administration carefully considers requests from law enforcement and other entities before establishing Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR) in U.S. airspace. The TFR currently over the pipeline protest was approved to ensure the safety of aircraft in support of law enforcement and the safety of people on the ground.

The TFR includes provisions for media to operate aircraft – both traditional and unmanned – inside the TFR, provided that operators comply with the language of the Notice to Airmen. In the case of unmanned aircraft, operators must also comply with the requirements of Part 107 and coordinate beforehand with the FAA. We’ve had no requests from media who meet those requirements.

Although the FAA is aware of anecdotal reports of drones being shot down, the agency has received only one official report. On Oct. 23, a drone was shot down with bean bags after allegedly being flown in a threatening manner near a law enforcement helicopter. That incident is still under investigation.

The agency also is investigating several incidents in which protesters have allegedly flown their drones in violation of the provisions of the TFR.”