Scholars Say No to FAA’s Model Aircraft Regulations - IEEE Spectrum
Last week, a group of researchers, teachers, and administrators from 16 institutions of higher learning including Harvard, Duke, and Stanford, registered their objections to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s recent “Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft.” They did that by submitting, with the assistance of counsel, a 13-page letter in response to the FAA’s request for public comments.
These academicians are upset, in large part, because the FAA’s rules for model aircraft have been making it increasingly difficult for them to incorporate hands-on activities into their research and instruction. That’s because having their students design, build, and fly model aircraft (such as quadrotors and other kinds of small, low-altitude drones) the way countless hobbyists do is forbidden by the FAA’s prohibition on the use of model aircraft for anything that is not strictly a hobby.
Those who are at public universities can apply to the FAA for a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA), but that option is not open to the faculty of private institutions. And in any case, the process, which was designed for doing research on comparatively large aircraft, is too cumbersome to address most educators’ needs.
“About the time you get an approval,” says Ella Atkins, a professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Michigan and one of the signatories to the letter, “the students have moved on.”