Flying in the Standing Rock TFR

Phantom 4

In our weekly hangout last night, we spoke to drone advocate and all round good egg Rhianna Lakin. She had been to Standing Rock to witness events unfolding and help where she could.

Rhianna mentioned that she knew the journalist that was granted permission to fly in the TFR. Today that journalist, Rob Levine has got in touch.

Here is the beginning of his story.

“Our Native drone pilots are out there showing to the world what we’re witnessing – which is the desecration from the Dakota Access Pipeline”
— Myron Dewey, Digital Smoke Signals

Without this drone technology, we wouldn’t be where we’re at with this battle against the Dakota Access pipeline. Drones are very beneficial — they’re our eagle eyes in the sky.”
– Dean Dedman Jr./Dr0ne2bwild

Drone photojournalist. That’s a new term describing photojournalists who cover news events using small drones. The potential to cover news events with these amazing new – and affordable – machines has the potential to revolutionise journalism by opening up new avenues for coverage to individuals and organisations that previously did not have the means to either own or hire a helicopter or small plane.

Despite this new potential, there is one organisation that has the ability to thwart this kind of coverage – the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Charged by the federal government to regulate the national airspace for safety and efficiency of shared use, the FAA is the lone authority regulating the national airspace.

With the new so-called Part 107 rules for commercial drone pilots released in August the FAA opened up the skies – with significant restrictions – to drone photojournalists. Licensed Part 107 pilots are not allowed to fly in controlled airspace, cannot exceed a height of 400 feet above ground level (AGL), cannot fly over people, over traffic, at night, or beyond what is called Visual Line of Sight (VLOS). Other rules – such as giving way to manned operations, or not operating in a reckless manner were also understandably instituted. Some of these rules may be obviated under certain conditions with an approved waiver from the FAA.


The problem for drone photojournalists is that these very sensible rules can be undermined by a tactic that law enforcement is increasing using to prevent aerial coverage of their operations – the Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR). A TFR is a cutout from spaces where drone pilots – and manned air traffic – would otherwise be allowed to fly – ostensibly in the service of air safety. Drone pilots are not allowed to fly in a TFR zone without a waiver from the FAA.

Read the rest of the story on Crooks and Liars