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Education

Students Can Now Fly Drones At School, FAA Says (buzzfeed.com) 86

An anonymous reader writes: It will now be easier for students to pilot drones as part of their schoolwork, thanks to new Federal Aviation Administration rules that exempt high schools and colleges from the more stringent aircraft regulations placed on businesses. In a memo released Wednesday outlining the new guidelines, federal regulators have designated drone schoolwork as a hobby or recreational -- as opposed to commercial -- activity, allowing students for the first time to fly unmanned aircraft without a pilot's license or special authorization from the government. "Schools and universities are incubators for tomorrow's great ideas, and we think this is going to be a significant shot in the arm for innovation," said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta during a drone conference in New Orleans. But the agency's policy prohibits teachers from being the primary operators of unmanned aircraft, because they are paid for their work and therefore "would not be engaging in a hobby or recreational activity" while flying a drone. (They can, however, pilot drones in a limited way -- in case of emergency, for instance.)
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Students Can Now Fly Drones At School, FAA Says

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Why do you need to fly drones at school? Why does anyone need to be flying a drone at school?

    I suspect I'll get downmodded to -1 so people can avoid the question and pretend like it's not here. Can anyone actually answer the question rather than evading it through moderation? I don't think Slashdot is capable of giving a good answer.

    • I can think of about 10 different reasons off the top of my head:

      1) You are studying aerodynamics and shaped the rotor/drone.

      2) You are studying robotics and built the drone.

      3) You are studying programming.

      4) You are part of a drone flying league - think robot soccer.

      5) You are an artist and it's part of a performance piece.

      6) You are a business major and have developed an idea for a business that uses drones for security/delivery/annoyance.

      7) You are studying human psychology and need a way to observe

      • I can think of about 10 different reasons off the top of my head:

        I'm studying nuclear physics, so I can build a nuke? Nothing big, just maybe 1 megaton.

        • The question was why, not whether you could do so legally. The legality was answered by the very ruling this article was discussing.

          So, if you can get a ruling from the Nuclear regulatory committee saying that students can do it, AND then you get permission from your school, AND then get funding, yes, you could build a nuke.

        • I'm studying nuclear physics, so I can build a nuke? Nothing big, just maybe 1 megaton.

          Based on a quick perusal of Title 18, United States Code, Sec. 1102, Chapter 40. Importation, Manufacture, Distribution and Storage of Explosive Materials, no you can't. Pretty sure you can't build that nuke without explosives. The nuclear material is also likely highly regulated, but I didn't bother to continue looking as I already found a showstopper for you legally building that nuke.

          • I'm surprised someone hasn't challenged that on the basis of the second amendment.

          • What if I wanted to do something even simpler? Say, 1.5 times the critical mass, using only off-the-shelf parts, and commercially available explosives? I'm a D student in physics, and I've got this design that I think will work, but my teacher doesn't believe me ...

            (Side note: If you don't understand the reference, a D student in a physics class *did* design an atom bomb using publicly available material. His design got classified, some publicly available information was classified, and I don't know what ha

        • I studied nuclear physics and would say no without a lot of extra curricular study. Beyond that, you need the materials, so unless you are in contact with some Libyan terrorists, no.
      • Re:Simple question (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Wednesday May 04, 2016 @03:58PM (#52048559)

        I help coach an after school enrichment program at my kids' elementary school. We have been using drones, with cameras and Raspberry Pis. I had no idea it was illegal up till now. We do it for several of the reasons you listed, but mainly because it is fun, and it keeps the kids engaged.

        • by fred911 ( 83970 )

          It was never against regulations. The FAA is simply clarifying that using a drone as a student isn't considered commercial use. Additionally, they state that if that drone is being used by a teacher, it is commercial use and would require additional licensing.

          Fairly cut and dry.

          • Fairly cut and dry.

            Doesn't seem cut and dry to me, since I am neither a student nor a teacher. I am a parent, coaching other people's kids as well as my own. So am I a criminal? I don't know.

          • Additionally, they state that if that drone is being used by a teacher, it is commercial use and would require additional licensing.

            I'm puzzled. Does the FAA regulate what Americans can or cannot do indoors? If yes, is nobody bothered by the overreach?

    • Re:Simple question (Score:4, Interesting)

      by SecurityGuy ( 217807 ) on Wednesday May 04, 2016 @03:16PM (#52048149)

      Learning about aeronautics?

      Learning about technology?

      Inspiring interest in either of the above, or any related field?

      Learning in general?

      I learned how to shoot a bow and arrow in middle school. I learned how to paint and draw (badly). I learned about music I don't especially like written by dead people hundreds of years ago. I wrote reports about books written by dead Russians. None of it was useful to me, though archery was fun, but some people go on to be artists, musicians, writers, etc.

      Part of the point of primary education is to show people a lot of doors so they'll see what options exist. This is far from the most useless subjects to be pursued in a school.

      • Just because they can doesn't mean they will. I was disappointed when my youngest son got to junior high because they had stopped doing all the interesting experiments that inspired me when I was kid. They blamed cost and liability.

    • How else are you going to capture that awesome video though the 3rd floor window of the woman's dorm?
    • for the same reason we needed to drop eggs off our school roof and try to get them not to break using ,minimal materials. because there is a lot to be learned, and its a fun way to do so
    • Why do you need to fly drones at school? Why does anyone need to be flying a drone at school?

      You don't. Unless you do.

      See, the thing is, not everybody agrees on what school is for, just like not everybody agrees what prison is for, just like not everyone agrees what welfare or the army or the library is for. Everybody's got their own agenda. All of these institutions serve or hinder these agendas in various ways. Two people who support a given institution may support it for different reasons. For example, some people support building prisons to rehabilitate felons, while some support building p

    • Some people have courses in Drones, aeronautics, electrical engineering, coding. Others work on larger g4roup projects such as developing autonomy systems for things like CV, Deep Learning etc.

      Better question is: Why do you think that there is no reason in a university to fly a drone that is appropriate?
      People had the same insipid questions and comments about computing/computers when it was a new field.

    • Given the current record of jackasses and their drones, they'll probably use them to cheat on tests and spy on girls' locker rooms, and generally be obnoxious with them.
    • How about controls research (the same field that brought yo driverless cars) like this? [youtube.com]
  • Um, what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shoten ( 260439 ) on Wednesday May 04, 2016 @03:06PM (#52048033)

    While I absolutely agree that there's value to students being able to use/learn about drones...and I absolutely support this ruling...this raises an interesting question. Is the FAA now saying that drones are dangerous and need to be restricted for broad areas, except in cases where there's a school nearby? Are they saying that the school makes the drones somehow safer, even though they're being controlled by people who haven't had to register them?

    The FAA's logic around drones and safety has been getting more and more twisted around, and this is just the latest example of why their restrictions are WAY too tight and need a bit of common sense inserted.

    • The Donald needs to fix the FAA on this as soon as he gets in. We need a list.
    • It's never been about logic or safety, it's about power and control.

    • by MacTO ( 1161105 )

      I'd support such a move if it more closely modelled amateur radio: test and license operators. Break the licenses up into different classes. An entry level class would require a knowledge of the relevant laws and safe operating practice. A fully licensed operator may be able to design and build their own aircraft, as well as have additional privileges for the type of aircraft and airspace that they can operate in. Most of all, have the aircraft identified by the operator's license rather than licensing

    • The FAA has managed to bobble the entry of UAVs into the real world. The underlying problem is this: The FAA controls a concept called the National Airspace System (NAS). This has evolved since around the 1930's and has managed a phenomenal degree of success in terms of aviation safety. In terms of efficiency, organization and ability to adjust to new technologies - not so much.

      Up until UAVs wandered into the radar, the FAA mostly worked with manufacturers and commercial entities that understood lawyers

      • The AMA (model airplane lobby) LOVES the current bogus rules, particularly LOS requirement, because FPV pilots don't fly at clubs, most of which require $$$ AMA membership.

      • by Nethead ( 1563 )

        The classic lament; "Where are my mod points when I need them!"

        The FCC is also having fun with software defined radio (SDR) and very cheap but good radios from China. Another major paradigm shift.

        Google "baofeng uv-5r" and see what they are being flooded with. At a tenth of the price of "standard" ham radios that one would have to open up and solder something to get to work outside the ham bands. Check the pictures from the Oregon wildlife preserve standoff, lots of those puppies around.

  • by e r ( 2847683 ) on Wednesday May 04, 2016 @03:33PM (#52048321)
    Gee whiz, I'm so glad our lords and masters at the federal government have decided to allow us the privilege.
    Y'know I'm so glad to live in the land of the free where we need the permission of the federal government to so much as flush our toilets, buy light bulbs, and fly drones that we paid for with our own money.
    • Bureaucracy at its finest. My favorite part is that teachers are not included, except in an emergency. Whats worse, most of the user comments I read here on Slashdot want to give these f*ing morons more responsibilities.
      • My favorite part is that teachers are not included, except in an emergency.

        Except, of course, if the teacher reaches over and picks up the exact same drone, and flies it with exactly the same care in exactly the same way in exactly the same place, but does it five minutes later. Because then he's off the clock, and he's doing it for fun, which the FAA says is just fine.

        Thanks, Obama administration.

    • Gee whiz, I'm so glad our lords and masters at the federal government have decided to allow us the privilege.

      Y'know I'm so glad to live in the land of the free where we need the permission of the federal government to so much as flush our toilets, buy light bulbs, and fly drones that we paid for with our own money.

      You could buy a big old airplane too but you'd still need to get it maintained according to regulations and have a license to fly it and I want it that way because I don't want just anyone who can afford to buy something to be able to crash it into my house because they have no clue of what they're doing.

    • You're still in the land of the free.

      Land of the free to not be affected by other people's bad decisions, such as wasting water, electricity, or attempting to knock a plane out of the sky with a toy.

      Okay these are extremes but the point is the same, this isn't the government overstepping due to their desire to control us. It's just an example of our inability to control ourselves.

  • Now that's ironic (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mark-t ( 151149 ) <markt@nerdflat.cELIOTom minus poet> on Wednesday May 04, 2016 @03:34PM (#52048333) Journal
    So, they classify flying drones while at school or at an event sponsored by a school as a "hobby" or "recreational activity", allowing them to fly drones without any authorization, while actually flying drones as a hobby or for personal recreation itself still *DOES* require such authorization.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Recreational activity does not require a COA in most instances. Your post is factually incorrect.

      • by mark-t ( 151149 )
        Ahem [faa.gov]
        • by Anonymous Coward

          Registering the drone is not the same as obtaining permission for a specific activity. That link has nothing to do with COAs.

          • by mark-t ( 151149 )
            Well that's what *I* was talking about.... so what am I supposedly factually incorrect about, exactly?
  • Most schools have big sports facilities. Why can't the students fly the drones indoors?

    • A lack of GPS is a big deal on a drone for many purposes.

      • by Hentes ( 2461350 )

        Since the drones can't leave the school territory anyway, you could hardcode the location in software.

        • Since the drones can't leave the school territory anyway, you could hardcode the location in software.

          What? We're talking about GPS location features that allow students to work with automation that places the drone in precise positions only a meter or so apart along the route. The whole point is to encourage students to understand technology as it's actually being used. Hard-wiring a piece of navigational technology to think it's in exactly one place doesn't help with that mission.

          And, incidentally, there's nothing saying the drone can't leave school property. They might very well be using it to do the

  • What the hell is wrong?

    I thought we lived where you're free to do what you damn well please as long as it hasn't been outlawed.

    But now we need explicit permission for ANYTHING?

    WHAT THE FUCK?!?!?!

    • Since the Air Commerce Act of 1926 and ninety years of amendments.

    • What the hell is wrong?

      I thought we lived where you're free to do what you damn well please as long as it hasn't been outlawed.

      But now we need explicit permission for ANYTHING?

      WHAT THE FUCK?!?!?!

      If we accept that by and large more rules means less freedom, and that governments by and large govern (which means creates & enforces rules which are limits on freedom), then it follows that more government means less individual freedom.

      Once the US Federal government began blatantly violating the US Constitution in deeper and more fundamental ways beginning in modern times in the early 1900s, the US Federal government has grown immeasurably in size, power, and scope.

      Power and control are a zero-sum gam

  • thanks to new Federal Aviation Administration rules

    Many thanks to the FAA (Peace be upon it) indeed for its kind permission.

  • Now I can fly my drone on any school campus without the fear of being molested (by police, haters, etc.)

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