3 Ways to Ensure Responsible Drone Driving
Vol. 16 No. 5
Every new technological development comes with potential risks, and recent advances in drone science are no exception. While drones certainly have the ability to enrich the classroom experience, there are safety risks and etiquette steps to keep in mind at your school.
Everyone remembers this news story: A New York City science teacher was arrested after his drone crashed into empty seats at the U.S. World Open tennis tournament in 2015. He was charged with reckless endangerment and operating a drone in a New York City public park outside of a prescribed area.
His misfortune has hopefully taught the rest of us a few lessons. Whether your school purchases a drone itself or faculty and staff bring their personal drones on campus, keep these tips in mind.
Lesson #1—Ensure the drone has a reliable navigation app. Drone technology isn’t perfect—flyaways and crash landings can and will happen for any number of reasons. Make sure the drone has a navigation app installed that lets the operator control the drone’s path. Then insist the operator practice, practice, practice before flying it over a public space.
Lesson #2—Research insurance and registration. Although school insurance isn’t required for your science class students to complete their drone experiments, it’s not a bad idea.
Most basic liability policies do not cover drone accidents, and past incidents have resulted in lawsuits. Remember this story from 2016—a women sued a fraternity when their drone crash landed on her head. It's better to be safe than sorry when it comes to protecting your school. Be sure to look for specific language that includes drone protection if you’re considering purchasing one or allowing them on your campus.
And let’s not forget registration. Check your local and state laws for drone requirements. Federal regulation information can be found here.
Lesson #3—Set rules of etiquette. Beyond legal compliance and risk management, your school should establish drone rules that make sense for your location, circumstances, and mission.
For instance, flying over neighboring properties, hovering near classroom windows, or gliding over public spaces can be seen as invasions of privacy. Consider instituting policy that dictates any drone originating from your campus must keep its distance from people and crowds—25 to 40 feet is a conservative distance. If photography is the purpose of the drone flight, operators can consider a zoom lens.
Also consider creating rules around the times of day that the drone can fly, duration of flight, and who is allowed to operate the device while on campus.
If your students are interested in drone technology but don't have access to the real thing, MIT has created software that lets users design and test their own virtual drone creations. The program even provides feedback on how it would fly, the amount it could carry, and the potential cost. Science class will never be the same!
Does your school incorporate drones into its curriculum? Tweet us some of your favorite captures by including our handle, @ISMINC, and the hashtag #ISMINCdroned. We’ll feature your highlighted moments in an upcoming volume of The Source for Private School News.
Additional ISM resources for Gold Consortium members:
I&P Vol. 35 No. 12 Does Your Crisis Plan Really Protect Your Students (and School)?