Originally intended to be in effect from December 2 to December 16, the FAA has removed the restrictions. (See FAA published TFR list here.) Attorney Peter Sachs, publisher of Drone Law Journal, called the FAA and confirmed that the TFR had been lifted.
The TFR over Standing Rock became the subject of significant disagreement in the drone community, with the publication of Sach’s piece in Drone Law Journal and drone expert John Goglia’s article in Forbes, which questioned the legality and impartiality of the move, given that the TFR served to effectively limit citizen journalists from documenting the protest from the air. Former FAA Administrator Joe del Blazo responded with his own article saying that the FAA could not be held responsible for making judgements about the validity of TFR’s requested by law enforcement.
The FAA said that the TFR did not prevent media drones from flying over the protest for the purpose of documentation; but the drama continued when the first licensed journalist drone operator requested permission to fly. The journalist was sent a denial: not from the FAA, but from the Morton County Sheriff’s Department. Subsequent complaints by drone industry advocates – the denial from law enforcement rather than the agency itself being a lapse of appropriate procedure – led to a stunning reversal of the decision a few days later and limited permission being granted.
The situation at Standing Rock has changed significantly with the decision by the Army Corps of Engineers to deny the pipeline permission to build in that location. But stakeholders claim that construction of the pipeline has continued defiance of the order; and the camp of dedicated protestors remains despite bitter winter conditions.
The lifting of the TFR over Standing Rock removes one obstacle to citizen journalists being able to provide aerial documentation of the site – giving both sides the opportunity to show the truth of the matter to the public.