UW-Madison has new drone policy: "A big move from no one being able to fly"

MADISON — A new policy governing the use of unmanned aerial devices at a Wisconsin university allows researchers and instructors to use the drones on campus for research or educational purposes.

University of Wisconsin-Madison's new policy will apply to indoor and outdoor spaces connected with the university, both in the United States and abroad, The Wisconsin State Journal (http://bit.ly/2sowLwC) reported.

Students may apply to fly a drone if it relates to coursework or other academic purposes. The university's new Unmanned Aircraft Systems Ethics and Safety Committee will ensure operators are compliant with Federal Aviation Administration standards.

Using drones recreationally or for marketing purposes by the public is still prohibited on campus, said Steve Ackerman, the associate vice chancellor for research in the physical sciences.

The goal of the policy is to promote research on campus, Ackerman said.

The university has largely been a no-fly zone for the past year and a half, said Chris Johnson, president of the Wisconsin Unmanned Aircraft Systems Advisory Board. He's a university instructor and one of the authors of the new policy.

The FAA had previously required drone operators to have a pilot's license, Johnson said. The new policy gives a formal structure for applying to fly a drone and lowers the bar for drone research and education.

"It affords an opportunity for researchers, educators and students who want to fly drones to do so, as long as they're being safe and ethical," Johnson said. "It's a big move from no one being able to fly."