Colleges and Universities Are Among the Civilian Agencies Operating Drones

Nearly two dozen colleges and universities, or units of those institutions, are among the public entities that have obtained approval to operate drones, according to lists obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The Federal Aviation Administration released the information in response to a lawsuit filed by the advocacy group. The lists do not indicate the purpose of the unmanned aircraft, the type used, or how many each organization operates, and not all of the authorizations are still active. The academic institutions listed include research universities, like Cornell and Georgia Tech, as well as community colleges. The Wall Street Journal reported that one of the institutions, the University of North Dakota, uses drones in connection with an undergraduate degree program in unmanned aircraft systems. About 78 students have declared majors in the field, a university official told the Journal.

The advocacy group is raising privacy concerns about the aircraft, which can carry surveillance equipment. Two members of Congress wrote to the FAA on Friday, asking it to make sure privacy implications are considered as it draws up regulations for civilian drone use.

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