A Checklist to Consider If You Use Drones at Your School

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Private School News

Drones are becoming more commonplace in schools nationwide. We provided three tips for responsible drone use last year, and now add a few more guidelines that your school should incorporate into your official protocol if you use drones on campus.

Schools use drones for a wide array of reasons. This includes inspecting facilities, observing sporting events, filming for marketing and admission, and education uses for science and art. Drones can also be used for safety, during an emergency drill, or for support in a real event, such as to locate a missing student or intruder.

It’s important to create a protocol about using drones at your school if your community wishes to use them. Follow federal, state, and local guidelines. Adopt a policy that makes sense for your school’s location and community structure.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulates drone usage, but most drones can fly under the Special Rule for Model Aircraft as long as they meet the following requirements.

  • Fly for hobby or recreation ONLY.
  • Register your model aircraft.
  • Fly within visual line-of-sight.
  • Follow community-based safety guidelines and fly within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization.
  • Fly a drone under 55 lbs., unless certified by a community-based organization.
  • Never fly near other aircraft.
  • Notify the airport and air traffic control tower before flying within five miles of an airport.
  • Never fly near emergency-response efforts.

Additionally, here is a checklist of community-based safety guidelines you may consider if you’re charged with creating your school’s drone protocol.

  • Fly no higher than 400 feet and remain below any surrounding obstacles when possible.
  • Always keep your drone in eyesight. Use an observer to assist, if needed.
  • Remain clear of, and do not interfere with, manned aircraft operations. Always avoid other aircraft and obstacles.
  • Do not intentionally fly over unprotected people or moving vehicles, and remain at least 25 feet away from individuals and property not owned by the school.
  • Do not fly in adverse weather conditions, such as high winds or reduced visibility.
  • Do not fly under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Ensure the operating environment is safe and the operator is competent and proficient in drone operation.
  • Do not fly near or over sensitive infrastructure or property, such as power stations, water treatment facilities, correctional facilities, heavily traveled roadways, or government facilities.
  • Check and follow local laws and ordinances before flying over private property.
  • Do not conduct surveillance or photograph people in areas where there is an expectation of privacy without the individual’s permission.
  • Fly the drone only during the day. It must be flown at or below 100 mph.
  • Check with local authorities to determine if your school can restrict others from flying drones over your campus when this activity has not been sanctioned by your staff.

Drones can certainly enhance the educational experience at your school, but safety is important. Feel free to incorporate aspects of this checklist into your school’s drone protocol (if you use them on campus) to protect your students, faculty, and staff.

Additional ISM resources:
The Source for Private School News Vol. 16 No. 5 Three Ways to Ensure Responsible Drone Usage
The Source for Business and Operations Vol. 11 No. 5 Your School’s Security

Additional ISM resources for Gold members:
I&P Vol. 35 No. 12 Does Your Crisis Plan Really Protect Your Students (and School)?

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