Thirty-four universities applied to FAA for drone permits in 2012

Thirty-four universities applied to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 2012 for permits to operate drones, documents obtained earlier this month by a watchdog organization reveal.

Documents obtained by a watchdog group show thirty-four universities applied for permits to operate drones in 2012.

The list, assembled by the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) through a Freedom of Information Act request to the FAA, includes prominent institutions, such as Cornell University, Pennsylvania State University, and the University of California – Davis.

EFF spokeswoman Rebecca Jeschke told Campus Reform last Wednesday that most of the applications from universities were intended for academic research, but still warned of potential privacy violations.

“I think it is really important that no matter what you are using the drones for that there is an appropriate privacy policy,” she said.

“You should think through what happens if you catch someone on video,” Jeschke added. “How long do you keep that video? Do you cut that part out before you save it? What if someone is caught on camera doing something embarrassing?”

Jeschke also advised universities to fully disclose the details of their unmanned aircraft and/or vehicle programs to their students.

“[T]hey should let students know if they are recording, how they are recording, how long they are keeping it, what purpose they are using for, who has access to it, all those important questions,” she said.

Earlier this month, Campus Reform reported on the Georgia Tech University’s Police Department’s failed attempt to acquire an FAA permit in order to “follow individuals on foot” and “locate threats.”

That particular school police department aimed to “lead the world in the use of unmanned aircraft for local law enforcement and commercial use in general.”

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