Drones, activism and mountaintop removal mining in West Virginia

Inspired by the debates surrounding WV Senate Bill 9 (SB9) which regulates the use of drones around Mountaintop Removal (MTR) Coal Mining Sites, this research project examines the usefulness of drones in environmental activism, especially within the fight against Mountaintop Removal Mining in Appalachia. The paper examines the tactics of such groups as Coal River Mountain Watch, Greenpeace, The Sea Shepherds, and DAPL Protesters. Each of these groups utilizes drones to monitor and expose environmental degradation and exploitation. The use of drones increases the complexity of strategies employed by Appalachian activists and challenges many of the traditionally held but continually critiqued stereotypes present in Appalachian research. Beyond a deeper understanding of Appalachian activism, this paper investigates the ways in which knowledge production and epistemological assumptions are challenged by new technologies such as drones. This paper also evaluates the response of polluters, corporations, and legislators to combat the use of drones by these groups as each side of these issues wrestle with the new realities of drone technology.