Because most students have limited access to research tools, many colleges offer a variety of lending programs – books (obviously), laptops, tablets and even bicycles. The University of South Florida has decided to extend their lending outreach to drones. But the FAA (as it has in so many cases) will likely shoot down any student –borrowed, UAV initiatives before they can get off the ground.
USG announced the fall-semester initiative in a press release unveiling several technological lending programs at its renovated library. After students take a training course in drone safety, they would be able to use the UAVs for a variety of research topics. Dean of USF Libraries Bill Garrison told CNN that, in addition to media projects, the initiative could help save energy costs:
“We have a global sustainability program, and they are mapping out the campus to see energy usage, so they can use the drones to help map out the campus. There are a lot of opportunities for research and learning by using drones. And the faculty can use it, too.”
But Garrison’s ambitious vision may just be an aerial pipedream thanks to FAA policies. Although the agency has not yet addressed the USF program specifically, it stated in an earlier ruling that non-aeronautical is currently off limits:
“[U]sing an off the shelf [drone] as opposed to some other available means – to monitor moisture levels in a soybean field as part of an agricultural research project would not qualify as aeronautical research. Non-aviation research that incidentally uses an aircraft does not qualify as aeronautical research, and would need another governmental function before it would qualify as a public aircraft operation.”
Such blockades would effectively shut down the USF program. Forbes contributor Greg McNeal writes that “[the] time intensive [FAA] authorization process will limit the places where the drones can be flown and the manner in which they will be used, thus undercutting USF’s entire scheme to allow students to check out their aircraft for creative projects.
McNeal adds: “[the drone-lending program] is exactly what a university should be doing — providing access to new technology for student learning opportunities.”
The FAA has already warned two university programs that their drone programs just won’t fly in the face of its continued obstructive policies. Last year, the FAA sent an ominous letter to the University of Missouri directing the school’s Drone Journalism Program to cease flying until it gets a Certificate of Authorization.
Jason is a longstanding contributor to DroneLife with an avid interest in all things tech. He focuses on anti-drone technologies and the public safety sector; police, fire, and search and rescue.
Beginning his career as a journalist in 1996, Jason has since written and edited thousands of engaging news articles, blog posts, press releases and online content.
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