K-State works to stay up-to-date on new drone policies

Nicholas Patterson, senior in mass communications, flies a Parrot 'Rolling Spider' drone through a hoop in the gym of Eisenhower Middle School on March 29, 2016. Patterson is enrolled in MC 589, Issues in Mass Communications, where students study the use of drones in journalism. (Evert Nelson | The Collegian)

Students who were given a drone from a parent or loved one for Christmas may have the inclination to fly the device outside their dorm or around campus; however, the Federal Aviation Administration’s guidelines for hobbyists and the safety risks involved are things students may wish to consider.

As far asregulations go, there are no laws pertaining to the flight of a drone if it is for recreational use. According to theFAA’s official website, however, there arespecificguidelines that hobbyists are advised to follow. Some of these includeflyingno higher than 400 feet, avoiding intentionalflight over unprotected people and keeping the drone within eyesight while flying.

There are no current policies regarding drone flight on campus, according to Jeffery Morris, vice president for communications and marketing at K-State. The university does promote the guidelines provided by the FAA, which are likely to change as soon as next fall, along with campus policies, Morris said.

“Policies (for drone flight) are still under consideration,” Morris said. “It’s a complex issue. Safety is our first concern, but we also have privacy concerns.”

Some K-State students also said they think safety is important when it comes to drone usage.

“It’s like a flying lawn mower,” Nick Homburg, graduate student in mass communications, said. “I think the FAA needs stricter regulations for recreational users.”

Homburg said he is researching the ethical perceptions of drones in journalism, and he suggests new owners take lessons at the local hobby shop before flying for the first time.

“It doesn’t really concern me if other students fly on campus, as long as they are being safe and know what they are doing,” Katie Johnston, junior in mass communications, said.

Johnston said she has been the owner of a DJI Phantom 2 Vision drone for about one year and has since paid close attention to the FAA guidelines.

Morris said there have been no incidents reported regarding reckless flight on campus.

As for the professional staff members who take videos and photographs for the university’s use, bystanders have little to worry about, Morris said. Every staff member who uses a drone has been trained at the Salina campus.

“Drones are a fast-growing trend, but we are very active and have very fast growth at the Kansas State Polytechnic Center,” Morris said. “We are also using the devices on this campus for research purposes in several areas, including agriculture and engineering.”

With the industry taking off and rules and regulations changing regularly through the FAA, K-State is working to stay up-to-date with current policies, Morris said.

“We don’t have all the answers, but we are working on it,” Morris said.