Drones on college campuses: instrumental or detrimental?

Drones are becoming prominent on college campuses around the world.

Drones are becoming prominent on college campuses around the world.

Drones are becoming more prominent on college campuses across the globe every year. Last year a lawsuit was filed against the Federal Aviation Administration by many United States universities classifying the administrations handling of the rise of drones as “a grave threat to science, research, education, and technological innovation across the United States.”

Notwithstanding the prohibition the FAA has put on drone use in classrooms, institutions are adding drone classes to their curriculum. Universities are using drones to do scientific research as well as utilizing drone footage for sports practices.

What is a drone and what are the regulations?

An Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) commonly referred to as a “drone”, is a remotely piloted aircraft. Individuals who use these drones for hobby or recreational purposes are referred to as hobbyist drone users.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is struggling with creating federal and state regulations as the influx in hobbyist drone users are increasing.

The FAA says “using a UAS to take photographs for your own personal consumption” defines recreational usage.

As of right now the current federal safety guidelines on hobbyist drone users include:
• Fly below 400 feet and remain clear of surrounding obstacles
• Keep the aircraft within visual line of sight at all times
• Remain well clear of and do not interfere with manned aircraft operations
• Don’t fly within 5 miles of an airport
• Don’t fly near people or stadiums
• Don’t fly an aircraft that weighs more than 55 pounds
• Don’t be careless or reckless with your unmanned aircraft

The FAA has partnered with several industry associations to promote their new program “Know Before You Fly.” This campaign helps to educate the public about using drones in a safe and responsible manner.

As technology is becoming cheaper and more readily available to the public the use of drones have increased dramatically.

DJI is the current leading distributor of hobbyist drones in the United States. DJI has created a mandatory firmware update that will help customers comply with FAA guidelines. This update restricts users to fly near airports and other restricted government facilities. DJI plans to update this no-fly zone firmware as more regulations are put forth for new restricted areas.

Drone use at the University of Denver

According to Sgt. James Johnson from Campus Safety the University of Denver does not currently have any drone regulations for its campus. Johnson’s biggest concern with the increasing drone use on campus is privacy issues.

The University Campus Safety Center voices their concern about drone usage on campus.

The University Safety Center voices their concern about drone usage on campus.

“Our largest concerns would be people using them to fly next to Halls or Towers and looking in windows of private residences” says Sgt. James Johnson.

From a first responders standpoint Sgt. Johnson says he “would be concerned with people using drones to monitor our response drills and to gain intelligence on how that response would be conducted.”

The idea that someone could gain counter intelligence on response times is a main concern for Campus Security.

The University of Denver already uses drones in the Engineering program, the remote sensing program, and the Geography department according to Keenan Grady, a current student.

University of Denver’s Lacrosse team also uses a drone routinely in their practices says Sgt. Johnson.

Keenan Grady is a current student at the University of Denver who owns and operates a drone. He uses his drone for taking personal photos as well as shooting for his company Lioneye Aerials.

Grady also does commercial work with government departments such as Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) and Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) doing traffic studies with his drone.

Future benefits for drone use on University of Denver’s campus could be anything from marketing and promotional videos to research in the science labs for weather patterns and robotics.

University benefits across the United States

Universities require the permission from the FAA to use unmanned aircrafts for research purposes.

Dan Murphy, a commercial drone operator, uses his drone for marketing footage for his real estate company Team Murphy Realty.

He creates “active livings videos that produce feelings of knowledge and comfort for future owners.”

By creating these videos Murphy opens up a whole new form of marketing. Using drones to create a full 360-degree experience for future customers. This can be applied to the University of Denver in that it opens up the marketing strategies to new tactics and more inclusive footage.

Universities such as MIT have been using drones on campus since the fall of 2013. Senseable City Laboratory, a MIT research group has created, Skycall, a drone tour guide for the campus. Students open the Skycall application on their smart phone and press the “call” button. Once the drone appears at their location he or she types in the building number they wish to find and the drone navigates them straight to the classroom door.

According to CNN the University of South Florida has implemented a drone-lending program. The university library plans to develop a training workshop that students much complete before they are allowed to rent out a drone.

Bard College founded a center in 2012 based on the study of drones. The Center for the Study of the Drone is an interdisciplinary research, education and art community working to “understand unmanned and autonomous vehicles” according to the Drone Center website.

All of these colleges are implementing drone use into their academic curriculum.

“With drone users skyrocketing it is only a matter of time before every campus has a drone 101 or drone law course” says Dan Murphy.

Academic research for drone technology is currently in development at academic institutions across the world. This research is bridging gaps in the science world and revolutionizing technology as we know it today.

If you would like to know more about drone regulations in your state you can visit the FAA website or Drone-Laws for more information.

2 Responses to Drones on college campuses: instrumental or detrimental?

  • Julie Brunette
    Julie Brunette says:

    Great article! I love the amount of research that you put into this piece and all of the sources that you linked to. Very well-written and put together article. I also really love your first photo – can’t wait to see your slideshow.

  • Isabel Raitt
    Isabel Raitt says:

    I’m surprised that the FAA doesn’t have any regulations surrounding the use of drones in privates spaces. I have similar concerns to what campus security brings up about photographing or filming private areas. I know it’s usually illegal to photograph someone’s private space, but I’m curious as to how that applies to the airspace as opposed to on the ground. I really liked how you mentioned how schools are beginning to incorporate drones into class curriculums, I wish my classes did that! Great article.

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