Public Relations and Government Affairs Director of the Academy of Model Aeronautics, Chad Budreau, says that Ball State University’s (Ball State) “Policy for the Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (Drones)” violates the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) small unmanned aircraft systems rule (Part 107). The Ball State policy, issued back in November 2017, states that all drone operators must request approval from the Ball State Office of Risk Management (ORC) before flying a drone on the Ball State campus at least 14 days prior to the flight. The policy also states that all drone operators must wear an operator’s badge, which will be issued by the ORC. Budreau says that these two requirements are likely invalid under FAA regulations. Why? Budreau says, “Right now as the law stands, [Ball State does] not have the authority to regulate what goes on in the airspace. Now that doesn’t mean they can’t protect the people and property on the ground; they have plenty of tools to do that. When it comes to regulating what goes on in the airspace, that authority is just not afforded to them yet.”
Also, the policy has a number of operational restrictions –altitude, weight, etc. –that oppose FAA regulations and guidelines. Because this area of drone regulation and oversight is such a new (and often gray) issue, Ball State’s policy and restrictions could be open to a preemption defense in the future says Budreau. Recently, state and local courts have overturned ordinances and laws that contradict FAA regulations and guidelines. This is an example of some of the hot button issues related to drones and their operation. This is also an example of how colleges and universities across the country will likely struggle with keeping their campuses safe and the privacy of their students and faculty preserved while also trying to operate under the FAA’s regulations related to the national airspace.