University of Arkansas limits drone use on campus

A remote-controlled quadcopter equipped with a camera.

Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer

Drones can no longer be flown over the University of Arkansas campus without advanced written approval from the school, officials announced today.

The new policy was detailed during a press conference held Monday morning at the Janelle Y. Hembree Alumni House in Fayetteville. The rule applies to privately owned craft as well as those owned by a business or non-profit organization. Violations may result in a criminal trespass warning or possibly an arrest.

The school has reportedly received several complaints, particularly during athletic events when drones were spotted flying near UA stadiums during games and over Razorback Stadium at a recent pep rally.

As drones become more affordable, officials said implementing a policy for use of unmanned aircraft systems is paramount to helping ensure the safety of the school’s students, faculty, and staff.

“Public safety is the primary purpose of this policy,” said Steve Gahagans, University Police director. “Drones and model aircraft can be useful, even fun, but are also potentially dangerous – if they malfunction they could injure anyone on the ground. Beyond that there’s the potential that they could be intentionally used as weapons.”

Gahagans said privacy concerns also came into play when writing the new policy.

“And finally they could potentially be used to take video or still images that violate student or employee privacy,” he said. “These are all extreme examples, but they must be taken seriously. The only real option for us is to restrict use in order to protect the people on our campus.”

Anyone wishing to fly a drone must first receive written permission from the Provost and Vice Provost for Research and Economic Development for use involving non-athletic venues, or by the Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics for athletic-related venues.

Before approval is given, the aircraft would have to meet all federal certification requirements, federal and state laws, and any Federal Aviation Administration requirements, the school said.