BY CHASE GORKSI
After much encouragement from various departments and faculty, including SU’s safety task force, the university will be looking to announce a drone policy for on-campus users.
Currently the university does not have such a policy, preventing students and faculty members from being able to use unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), or drones. The only groups who have been granted waivers by the university have been local news stations looking to cover events at the university.
Dr. Dane Foust, Vice President of Student Affairs, heads the task force that holds the responsibility for assessing these needs that the university has. The group has been advocating for a drone policy since last year, and now are starting to see some progress.
The policy is in the creation phase, starting at the desk of SU General Counsel Karen Treber. It is still early on in the process, but it is a priority.
“[Dane] has been asking since the day I got on campus,” Treber said. “We are creating a policy and we really need one because there is a need for people to use drones.”
Treber, who came to Salisbury University in March of 2017, has come to find that SU has many outdated policies along with some that are missing, such as a UAS policy. Due to this she is at square one developing an outline for a plan to present to the task force.
Along with various Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidelines that the university must follow, there is added difficulty in the form of privacy and the fact that SU sits within five miles of the Salisbury Regional Airport.
The different regulations that come from the FAA include weight limits, rules of the air, community based safety guidelines and keeping the drone within a visual sightline. However, these rules become more difficult when within five miles of the university.
According to the FAA, when operating a UAS the airport and air traffic control must be notified prior to flight.
Along with these restrictions that drone users will be forced to follow on-campus, the university has its own set of rules in order to prevent future problems.
“There are other universities with drone policies and I’m looking at those,” Treber said. “I’ve been on campuses where they didn’t have a policy and there were issues…there could be disciplinary issues.”
Some of the problems that Treber has seen occur were of lesser significance, such as unknown people flying drones that landed on campus roofs and had to be obtained. But there were some that could pose significant backlash towards the university if not addressed in a policy, including drones flying outside of dorm hall windows.
As General Counsel to the university, Treber has to be aware of these ‘worst-case scenarios’ in order to layout these guidelines to students and faculty.
“My goal with any policy is to be more informational so that people understand what the rules are,” Treber said. “People don’t usually think about it, they just think ‘I’m just flying my drone,’ but what happens if it lands on somebody and they get hurt?”
In order for SU to make drones readily available to those groups that are interested in using them, officials must make sure that all possible scenarios are discussed and planned for in the policy they create. The university wants to make sure they inform people of the rules while also being reasonable of what they expect.
As the semester progresses students can look forward to an announcement, once the drafts of the policy have been accepted, that drones are now able to be used on campus. Although there is a lot that goes into these policies in a very versatile environment such as a college campus, SU seems to be on the right track.
“The best policy is a flexible policy,” Treber said. “We are trying to figure out what would be reasonable and makes sense for each of these groups.”
With a drone policy in place in the future, faculty will be able to utilize drones for different classes as well as their own research and students would also get the chance to take aerial shots of the campus, not just news stations. An exciting thought for those students looking to get a birds-eye view of the campus of Salisbury University.