After initially refusing to allow Photojournalist Robert Levine permission to use a drone to document the events surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock, the FAA has reversed their position, allowing him a three-day waiver.
In a highly controversial decision, the FAA issued a TFR (temporary flight restriction) over the area covered by the protest, which many have argued severely limits the media's ability to cover the events unfolding there and amounts to a government-sanctioned media blackout, thereby enabling unlawful actions. In particular, the FAA's vague justification of the TFR as "law enforcement activity" did little to ease tensions at the site. A TFR issued for the same reasons over Ferguson, MO in 2014 sparked similar outcry.After initially denying his request, the FAA has now allowed Robert Levine a three-day waiver to fly his drone there under the usual restrictions (under 400 feet, maintaining line of sight, being in contact with the appropriate authorities, and flying during daylight). This represents a big victory for photojournalism and freedom of the press, as the large scale of the protest makes it difficult to fully capture from the ground. Aerial coverage can significantly augment and clarify the reporting of the events taking place there. It's also a big reminder of the power of photography in shaping world events.
Lead image by Flickr user Fibonacci Blue, used under Creative Commons.