- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 2, 2015

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - The University of Kansas is working on a new policy to regulate the use of drones on campus, which has an aerospace engineering professor concerned about the potential impact on academic freedom and research.

The policy is intended to ensure anyone who wants to fly an unmanned aerial system on campus has approval from the Federal Aviation Administration and the university, The Lawrence Journal-World reported (https://bit.ly/1TldTm8 ). No date has been set for the policy to become effective.

Some university officials became concerned after drones flew over a recent commencement, said Amy Smith, the university’s policy office director.

Ron Barrett-Gonzalez, a professor of aerospace engineering who has patented several drones, said the university’s aerospace faculty has not been consulted about the policy, which he says has “really, really serious problems.”

“It’ll allow the flight of dangerous items while disallowing the flight of harmless aircraft … It’ll hamper research really unnecessarily. It’ll violate academic freedom,” Barrett-Gonzalez said at Tuesday’s Faculty Senate Executive Committee meeting.

Deans, provosts and department chairs were informed about the proposed policy via email and asked to provide feedback, according to an email provided by Barrett-Gonzalez.

The draft policy would require written approval from the university before anyone can operate a drone on or over campus. Personal and commercial drone users would have to contact Kansas Marketing Communications, while users flying drones for educational and research reasons would go through the Vice Chancellor for Research’s office.

Unmanned aerial systems would also be required to demonstrate “a baseline level of proficiency in takeoff, landing and maneuvering,” as well as comply with all applicable FAA, state and local laws. The university also would have the right to “immediately terminate” the operation of a drone that interferes with campus operations or poses hazards, or if the operator has not received proper approval.

Barrett-Gonzalez said he believes the policy would infringe on personal freedom, including campus visitors who want to fly toy drones in an open area. He also cautioned against unnecessary “encumbrances” that would violate the academic freedom of faculty and students working on drones and said the policy would duplicate regulatory functions of the FAA.

He suggested disbanding the policy committee, forming a new one led by the chairman of the Aerospace Engineering Department and starting over on the effort.


Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, https://www.ljworld.com

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