The Federal Aviation Administration issued a notice on Tuesday that bans low-flying aircraft from a three-mile radius in an area near St. Louis that has seen days of civil unrest after police killed an unarmed teenager.
The FAA notice was spotted and posted by a Twitter user from Los Angeles:
— #PettyPendergrass (@ashoncrawley) August 12, 2014
The FAA ban came in the form of a NOTAM or “notice to airmen” which, according to aviation lawyer Brendan Schulman, are not uncommon and are “how the FAA alerts pilots to emergency restrictions and other temporary conditions” like VIP visits.
Here’s a screenshot of the NOTAM, which shows that the ban is in place until the weekend, and applies to airspace up to 3000 feet:
The FAA and the St. Louis County Police Department did not immediately reply to requests for comment, but reports suggest the ban was imposed after people allegedly fired shots at a police helicopter.
The no-fly zone appears to include media aircraft, though it’s not clear if this also includes civilian drones. According to the lawyer Schulman, “model aircraft” may not be included in the scope of the order, since previous NOTAM’s have specifically included such craft.
For journalists and citizens, such drones could be especially helpful to watch and record what appears to be a spiraling crisis that has brought criticism from many, including soldiers, about the growing militarization of American police forces:
— Christopher Mims (@mims) August 12, 2014
As I’ve reported before, drones have provided key news footage for emergencies like this fire in Harlem. Meanwhile, several journalism schools are trying to launch drone programs but the FAA has so far barred them from doing so.
Update: an executive at drone detection service Drone Shield claims that drones are already barred over Ferguson since the town is within a five-mile radius of St. Louis airport. (Here’s a guide to where you can fly drones).