Drone spotted flying above Metrodome during Vikings-Packers game [PHOTOS] [UPDATE]

Categories: Police
vikes drone closeup.jpg
Nathan M. Hansen -- photo taken from Metrodome plaza shortly before yesterday's game.
Blogger Kevin Hayden writes: "[A] VIPR team [with a drone] at a random NFL event should send chills up your spine."
Think drones only fly above Pakistan, Afghanistan, or other quasi-theaters of war?

-- Camp Ripley drones: New $3.9 million facility sparks protest
-- Grand Forks police to begin regularly using drones this spring

Think again. Yesterday, an unmanned helicopter was photographed flying above the Metrodome plaza before the Vikings-Packers game. A Homeland Security Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response [VIPR] team was also photographed milling around the plaza.

Here's a photo of the VIPR team, followed by a full-size shot of the drone (all photos courtesy of Nathan M. Hansen's Twitter):

vikes vipr team.jpeg

vikes drone full.jpeg

Local "information operations" and "spinstorms" blogger Dan Feidt writes that the drone "is comparable to the sports photography drone... I figured it might just be a civilian hobbyist drone or some weird sports media project until the VIPR team was found by Hansen." (We've done two interviews with Feidt this year: read them here and here.) [UPDATE: In fact, the unmanned aircraft appears to have been under the control of a local production company -- see update below.] 

Here's some context about VIPR teams [also known as "viper" teams] from a Los Angeles Times report published late in 2011:
The TSA's 25 "viper" teams -- for Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response -- have run more than 9,300 unannounced checkpoints and other search operations in the last year. Department of Homeland Security officials have asked Congress for funding to add 12 more teams next year.

According to budget documents, the department spent $110 million in fiscal 2011 for "surface transportation security," including the TSA's viper program, and is asking for an additional $24 million next year. That compares with more than $5 billion for aviation security.

TSA officials say they have no proof that the roving viper teams have foiled any terrorist plots or thwarted any major threat to public safety. But they argue that the random nature of the searches and the presence of armed officers serve as a deterrent and bolster public confidence.
Of course, one person's "public confidence" is another's "police state." And either way, your tax dollars paid for a VIPR team that probably spent most of its time in Minneapolis staring at drunken football fans walking to and from a game.

:::: UPDATE ::::

It appears the presence of the drone was unrelated to the presence of the VIPR team. TCRover, a reporting truck used by the Pioneer Press, shared a photo indicating the unmanned craft was being used by a local production company to shoot aerial scenes of the Metrodome.

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