During Sunday’s large gathering on Highway 1806 — which has been blocked repeatedly by protesters — law enforcement responded to calls of potential trespassing west of the highway, according to Morton County Sheriff’s Department. It was during this time that the department says drones began flying in the vicinity of law enforcement.
Not long after Dedman began flying, he heard loud gunshots. But he didn’t realize the scope of the incident until later, when he began reviewing the footage captured by his drone.
“[My drone] was shot, but it was still flying.” Dedman says. “It’s like [the drone] is protected by something.”
While it’s difficult to piece together the exact events, Dedman’s drone was recording. He estimates that up to 11 shots were fired. Note: The second video is strictly from the drone, so there is no sound.
North Dakota Highway Patrol Captain Bryan Niewind said in a press conference
the issue is not that drones were flying near law enforcement, but that authorities were surveying the area with manned aircraft while the drones were in the air.
“That helicopter was buzzed repeatedly by a drone, maybe it was multiple drones, but there was a drone that was buzzing by this helicopter,” he said. Niewind claimed the drone came within 30 to 50 feet of the helicopter’s blades.
Dedman admits he knew the helicopter was in the vicinity, but denies flying too close to the helicopter or in a threatening manner. He estimates that he was flying at 50 feet above ground level (AGL) or below, while the helicopter was flying between 200 and 300 feet AGL. Dedman says the "helicopter was not even close."
“[Law enforcement is saying that] because they’re breaking their laws and they’re using that [excuse] to justify what they’ve done by shooting the drones,” he says.
A sheriff on board the helicopter told law enforcement on the ground that the helicopter pilot and passengers were “in fear of their lives,” and that the “drone came after us,” said Sheriff Kyle L. Kirchmeier of Morton County Sheriff’s Department in a statement.
The police said the risk of a helicopter potentially crashing due to a drone pushed them to “take the drone out.” Once the drone headed away from the helicopter, authorities began firing toward the drone (which they say was flying over an open field).