On May 4th, 2016 the FAA issued a memo on drone use at educational facilities. While they overstepped their bounds stating that hobbyist could fly drones on school campuses (an issue that should be left up to schools), they did also confirm that school site staff are not hobbyist or recreational users and are required to comply with the FAA rules. Meaning that they must have a COA to fly the drone on school campuses. This applies to M&O staff as well. The memo also addresses student use of drones on campuses. If students are conducting research for faculty (college level) they would lose their hobbyist status.
Other concerns over FAA issues guidance on schools
One of the questions a lot of our clients are asking is “do we have to let people use our campuses to fly drones?” While the FAA overstepped their bounds, they did not remove the authority of the school district to restrict or limit its campuses use. While you must comply with the Civic Center Act, it doesn’t state that you cannot limit certain activities which are high risk or have serious safety concerns. Now is a good time to start discussions about what is appropriate use of a drone, areas that are okay to fly them and so on.
Districts and staff should ensure that they are following their district’s policy and that they have obtained the proper clearances to operate a drone prior to taking flight. Don’t have a policy? Get one here.