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FAA bans news helicopters over Ferguson, but what about citizen drones?

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Aircraft are being restricted from flying just above Ferguson, Missouri for the next week, as the FAA halts air traffic above the town so that law enforcement can deal with backlash over the police's fatal shooting of an unarmed teenager. The air traffic ban went into effect yesterday and runs through late next Monday. Craft are banned from flying anywhere between the ground and 3,000 feet above sea level, across a nearly six-mile-wide circle around the town. Reuters reports that bans like this are usually requested by law enforcement so that their own helicopters can avoid encounters with news helicopters. Throughout the ban over Ferguson, only relief aircraft will be allowed in.

Given the importance of documenting the events in Ferguson right now, the aircraft ban poses some issue for the local news. Even drones appear to fall under the ban because its range reaches to the ground, but small civilian craft seem to fall in a somewhat grayer area. In its discussion of rules for these small aircraft, the FAA, naturally, says that it frowns upon their usage during a ban quite strongly. But it doesn't really clarify if it would (or could) do anything about it. With drones becoming ever more accessible to the average person, that opens up a major tool for citizens to potentially use for documenting local incidents. Following the truly dramatic events that have unfolded in Ferguson, it's quite clear how useful that could become for protesters going forward.