The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Wednesday announced new guidelines meant to make it easier for students to use drones for academic purposes.
Students at accredited educational institutions will not need to get authorization from the FAA, according to the guidelines, or apply for an exemption from existing rules. Faculty members will also be able to use a drone without additional authorization, assuming they are assisting a student.
Students will still be required to follow the guidelines for model airplanes, however.
The head of the FAA hailed the decision as good for students and the development of innovative technologies.
“Schools and universities are incubators for tomorrow’s great ideas, and we think this is going to be a significant shot in the arm for innovation,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta in a speech on Wednesday in New Orleans.
A trade group for unmanned vehicle companies praised the announcement.
"[Unmanned aerial systems] are an exciting way to promote STEM education and wider use among young people will no doubt inspire the next generation of UAS operators and aviators," said Brian Wynne, president of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, in a statement.
Huerta also announced that the FAA is establishing an advisory committee on unmanned aerial systems (UAS) to be chaired by Intel’s CEO, Brian Krzanich.
“UAS innovation is moving at the speed of Silicon Valley,” he said. “So it only makes sense that we asked a Silicon Valley leader to help us with this important step.”
In response to a rapidly rising interest in using drones for a variety of purposes, the FAA announced registration requirements for the vehicles over the past year. In March, it raised the maximum altitude that drones can fly at, to 400 feet.