ISPRS Annals of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences
Publications Copernicus
Articles | Volume IV-2/W5
29 May 2019
 | 29 May 2019


P. K. Freeman and R. S. Freeland

Keywords: Drones, FAA, Precautionary Principle, Risk, UAS

Abstract. Reports over the past two decades have documented concern that the growth of regulation on research is reducing scientific productivity. While much of the burden comes from mandated standards, institutions increase the burdens when they add elective rules. This study examines regulatory responses in higher education to the implementation of domestic unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the United States of America (U.S.). The variance in UAV policies provides insight into regulatory responses to a controversial emerging technology. All higher education institutions share a common mission of education, research, and service, although the amount of attention given to each varies. UAVs create similar risks across institutions. Moreover, all campuses are subject to identical Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations. For this study, four educational institutions’ UAV policies from all fifty U.S. states were examined. The policies were classified from none to highly restrictive. Consistent with expectations, the stringency of UAV regulations is related to the institution’s structure and mission. Publicly funded institutions, particularly the land-grant universities with relatively more community outreach, had the most restrictive policies. Institutions in states with local government ordinances restricting UAVs also tend to have stricter policies. More stringent UAV rules exist in research-oriented institutions. Neither organizational size nor the existence of an aviation program affects institutional UAV policies. Because some of the policies adopted in higher education go beyond the rules mandated by the FAA, some may label the elective policies as being excessive “red tape” that thwart the institutional mission and stymie research.