Drone Ban Will Stifle Research, Professors Warn

Josh Evans Contributor
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In a letter issued late last Friday, a group of professors warned the Federal Aviation Administration that its ban on commercial drone use may hinder work across numerous disciplines.

Professors from 16 different colleges and universities signed a letter calling out the FAA on the flaws in its interpretation of a 2012 law that required the agency to establish drone regulations, Motherboard reports.

In its rulemaking, the FAA chose to ban commercial use of drones — a move the professors have called overly broad and unreasonable. Because their work with drones, along with the work of others at universities across the country, is classified as commercial, the FAA’s rule presents an obstacle to research in many fields, such as archaeology, environmental science and agricultural science.

“We believe that free and open access to this technology is absolutely essential to our nation’s continued leadership in aviation, to our future economy and to our long-term security,” the professors wrote.

The letter examines several problems with the FAA ruling, including the expansion of its authority over the Navigable Airspace System – typically considered above 500 feet – to include all airspace, including campuses and private residences.

The ban also fails to provide an adequately specific definition of the types of aircraft prohibited, according to the professors. They point out that the broad definitions could open up a number of innocuous objects to be classified as model aircraft, and therefore subject to the restrictions.

“If a student designs a novel Frisbee and it flies into a public road, does this warrant an NTSB investigation?” they wrote.

Although a federal judge has ruled that the restriction is too broad, the FAA will continue its implementation until the appeal process is complete.

In a statement following the ruling, the FAA insisted that its restrictions were important for safety reasons.

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