November, 2011 turned out to be a turning point in which people finally took notice of the potential, both good and bad, of drones. After months of local Sheriff’s officer’s unsuccessfully gathering information of a local farmer for a reported theft of cattle, Nelson County Sheriff Kelly Janke requested the assistance of US Border Patrol employed Predator drones, to conduct surveillance on the Brossart family farm. This came on the heels of an armed standoff between officers and the Brossart family, while attempting to search the property with a legally issued warrant.
Attorneys for the Brossart family requested that the photographic evidence obtained by the drone be deemed inadmissible since a warrant was not obtained to use the drone, however the Judge Andrew Napolitano said that local authorities did not need a warrant to use the drone.
This ruling set a precedent for the relatively open use of drones in the state of North Dakota. The University Of North Dakota, which has a history of training airline pilots, has begun training drone pilots. The program is conducted by Associate Professor Alan Frazier who is also North Dakota’s link to the FAA. When law enforcement has the need for a drone, Frazier makes the arrangements with the FAA and he or another pilot flies it.
“Drones don’t do anything that aircraft can’t already do,” Frazier told USA Today in a recent interview, “It’s not a drone concern–it’s an information technology concern. The real concern is what’s happening with that data.”
This concern has prompted the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers to begin building a database of information to assist lawyers in the defense of clients who are arrested based off the use of a drone.
Drones are being used as a powerful resource for North Dakota for law enforcement purposes as well as for preventative purposes such as the monitoring of river bank erosion levels. Since May of 2013, North Dakota has been employed UAVs in nine instances including searching for drowning victims, taking photos of local river erosion, search for child molestation and murder suspects and collecting photos of a train collision. Where most states, such as New Hampshire and Massachusetts, are working on legislation that is very restrictive in terms of drone use by law enforcement, North Dakota has embraced the utility of this emerging tech.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com