Earlier this month in Chippewa County, Wisconsin there was a dispute over a drone UAV (an unmanned aerial vehicle), that was used by a community group to fly over a silica sand mine. An individual launched the UAV over the Chippewa Sands Mine to document changes at the site and to a post video at a community action group website. According to the story published online by WQOW found here the town clerk originated the request for the flyover.
The drone lost power mid-flight and landed on the mine’s property. Upon attempting its retrieval, the company contacted the Sherriff’s department, and refused to return the drone for over a week. The company’s attorney, Brian Nodolf, considers the UAV to have conducted “illegal surveillance” of the mine. The sheriff indicated that trespassing citations will be issued.
Mr. Nodolf was quoted, “I think this is probably one of the first cases in our area where drones have been used to violate privacy. You can certainly observe our mine and our facility from the outside on public rights of way, but in this case it’s quite obvious that these individuals couldn’t see what they wanted to from the areas they were legally allowed to, so they attempted to use a drone in violation of Wisconsin law to do that.”
This is the first article we have seen about the public using a UAV to conduct surveillance of a mine site. Currently hobbyists are allowed to fly UAVs in ways that private industry cannot…yet. The FAA has allowed three private companies (including BNSF) to fly “data gathering missions”, with changing regulations pending to increase the use of UAVs in private industry.
How are your company, your mine, and your employees adjusting and preparing for UAVs to be used by community groups today? And just as importantly, how are you aligning your internal resources to make UAVs part of your toolkit when the regulations change? UAVs have the clear potential to serve as a major operational advantage for natural resource companies, including stockpile checks, environmental inspections and viewing real-time mining activities.
– Holly Bellmund, President, Proppant Today, LLC