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FGCU policy requires users to ask university before flying drones on campus

A policy to restrict the use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems, or drones, was proposed and released to the university community for review Nov. 16.
The Federal Aviation Administration defines a UAS as an unmanned aircraft and all of the associated support equipment necessary to operate the aircraft. A drone is an aircraft that is remotely piloted through a ground control system.
According to the submitted FGCU policy, the operation of drones on university premises will have to follow federal regulations. Drone users will have to notify the university that they will be flying a drone.
“We are within five miles of the Southwest Florida airport, and that’s under the jurisdiction of the federal regulation of model aircrafts,” said Joe McDonald, the associate vice president for administrative services and finance.
The FAA regulation requires anyone piloting a model aircraft within five miles of an airport to ask the airport and its control tower for permission to fly.
“That was one reason,” McDonald said. “We want to make sure we are aware of any students who are doing research projects or using (drones) for recreational purposes.” McDonald said another reason the policy was drafted is because of a privacy concern with the inappropriate use of drones.
“It’s for the privacy of the whole FGCU community,” McDonald said. “I’m just relating to what I’ve seen in the news of people complaining of drones flying around, hovering over residential areas or so that they don’t come crashing down while (the drone users) are doing some photography. We’re preventing that.”
The designated responsible office to enforce the policy would be UPD.
“They are usually who people would call to complain about the issue,” McDonald said.
UPD would identify anyone using drones and refer the case to the Dean of Students’ office and the Student Discipline Board.
However, any student who violates the federal regulation could potentially be taken to court. McDonald said the policy was drafted by Chief Stephen Moore and then exported to the General Counsel’s Office.
“From there it would go to the president’s cabinet who would review it, and from there, it usually goes to the next Board of Trustees meeting,” McDonald said.
The university community has been given  a ten-day period to submit any comments to the General Counsel’s public announcement page.
“Anyone who has comments can send them in to see if there are any changes that need to be made,” McDonald said.
If the policy is approved by the Board of Trustees, no unlicensed UAS would be allowed on university land, buildings and facilities. However, interested pilots could submit a flight approval request to McDonald or a designee. The office would then forward the request to the FAA via the appropriate FAA control tower official.
“It gets skeptical because if you want to have someone who has commercial use they would have to have a contract with the marketing department, and they would have to have the right FAA approval to use a drone in this area,” McDonald said. “We’re trying to be proactive. Just in case it becomes an issue, we already have a policy in use.”
Kayla Hoffman, a senior majoring in English, said,  “I hate that we’re being restricted for things that we haven’t found use for here yet. I hate that they’re banning something that hasn’t become a problem yet.”
“We do have a growing engineering program so I think that they could end up being problematic for the engineering majors who might want to use them,” Hoffman sad.
She also said she thinks the requests would take too long to get approved and for students to start using drones.
“That’s not enough time for a semester,” she said. Diana Lopez, a sophomore psychology major, said doesn’t think the policy is necessary.
“I don’t think I’ve actually ever seen them and I spend a lot of time on campus,” Lopez said.
When asked if she’s planning on commenting about the policy on the General Counsel’s webpage, she said “I saw the email but I didn’t read it. It doesn’t bother me, so I wouldn’t.”

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