Motherboard obtained nearly a hundred pages of emails between the Federal Aviation Administration and federal, state, and local agencies through a Freedom of Information Act. This correspondence describes the exchange between the law enforcement officials and the FAA regarding the establishment of a no-fly zone over the protest area. This is a critical issue because the temporary flight restriction required by the police to counter the use of drones in Standing Rock collide directly with the news gathering rights protected by the first amendment.
With the rise of the shale oil production in the northern U.S.A., the energy companies designed a pipeline, the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), to move the heavy petroleum to an oil terminal located 1,200 miles away in Illinois. Standing in the middle are several Indian reservations and native American tribes, some of which opposed to the construction of the pipeline. This case generated protests and incidents with law enforcement personnel on site.
The emails released by Motherboard show the police's concerns and justifications to implement the no-fly zone.
North Dakota Highway Patrol Sgt. Shannon Henke to North Dakota's Department of Emergency Services (DES):
We need to ensure the movement of law enforcement trying to protect the innocent is not being broadcast live by the use of drones. With today's technology this would be very easy to do with a drone and the camera capabilities.
Sean Johnson, Chief Planner at North Dakota Department of Emergency Services (DES) to FAA Special Operations Security:
Due to the violence that has in fact been displayed over and over again throughout this period of civil disorder and riots, it is only a matter of time until a law enforcement officer, a lawful protester, or member of the public is injured (or worse yet killed) as a result of unlawful actor usage of UAS.
A FAA Official Brian Throop told Johnson:
There is a very robust discussion here about whether or not to issue the TFR. Management at the highest levels of the FAA is aware of this and is involved in the discussion.
For more information, read the article on Motherboard. The entire emails transcript is available at the end of the article.
Regarding the TFR over Standing Rock, you can also read the opinion of Attorney Peter Sachs on the Drone Law Journal.