There is a lot of misunderstanding about drone use and their regulations. This brief post will help you understand a little more and to provide you with some ideas about implementing drone policy or dealing with drones in your school or district. 

Most people don’t realize that any drone weighing more than 0.55 pounds must be registered with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Even some the small drones that can be purchased at Walmart or the internet fall into this category.

Another area that is frequently overlooked in flight programs are liability issues. We recommend reviewing your current policies as they relate to drone use and ensure they are covered by your standard liability insurance policy. What we’ve found in many cases that an additional separate policy will be required. Your coverage should include any students or personnel using drones on school property regardless if they are using them for school related projects.

Another misunderstanding we find is the incorrect assumption that owners have a rights to airspace above their property. Actually, all physical airspace is controlled by the FAA so you need to design policies that work within federal regulations and protect your students, staff and guests as well as to limit your liability. I have visited many schools and districts around the country. I have observed numerous schools using drones in ways that were outside of federal regulations and most of the drones in use were not registered with the FAA – a violation of federal law. Most sporting events will have a drone flying around whether being operated by a coach or a parent, and many times flying directly over participants and/or spectators – another violation of federal law. Many engineering and STEM programs are using and even sometimes making their own drones. I have seen facilities personnel and administrators using drone technology to document and record damage, repairs or additions to facilities and even video various school events.

The risks associated are usually small to the individuals utilizing the drone equipment, but should an accident occur involving students, personnel or property the ramifications to the school and/or school district can be extremely large, especially for those who have not done their due diligence by implementing an internal set of guidelines outlining the policies and procedures for their use. I have learned that this is not necessarily the school’s fault. The education and integration for the safe use of drones within schools has been very slow and left to those to figure out on their own and for case law to develop. Some districts and schools doing it right but unfortunately, they are few and far between.

I understand that many districts forbid the use of drones within their schools. I believe we owe it to our students to educate them about the rules, regulations and the safe use of drones. We need to share with them how this life changing technology will affect them and model its safe use.  After all, in the future our students will deal with this technology in most industries and their personal lives daily. Drone technology is inching its way into most fields and is helping to make jobs safer and more efficient. These learned skills will make our students more employable after leaving high school or college. Our students have grown up in the digital age and are well suited for using and applying this technology in the future.

I hope after reading this post that you will take a look around your school and begin the process of creating drone programs which outline the policies and procedures that allow for the safe and effective use within all applicable regulations.

I am available to assist in the development or restructure of existing programs as needed. Please review the links below which can help guide you in the process. Drone technology is here to stay and its use is growing ever so quickly in a variety of industries. We have an obligation to prepare our students for the world that is here now and to educate them in the safe integration and use of drones within our schools and community. Education is the solution.