By Dustin Wyatt
A drone with whirling propellers took flight over a soccer field.
While students of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University were controlling the unmanned aircraft with a remote control, the drone’s movement was limited. It was tethered to a stake in the ground by 70 feet worth of parachute rope.
“It’s like a dog on a leash,” Dan Macchiarella, chair and professor of Embry-Riddle’s Aeronautical Science Department, said of the drone.
The school began offering an unmanned aircraft system science degree program in 2011, at which time only 11 students were enrolled. Today, the school has 220 students taking classes to learn how to pilot or operate drones.
Despite the degree program’s popularity, the Federal Aviation Administration has put tight restraints on how drones are used and who can use them, and this extends to educational settings as well. A group of professors nationwide is urging the FAA to loosen restrictions on the academic use of drones.
The FAA bars commercial and educational uses of drones, saying they could collide with manned aircraft or injure people on the ground if not flown in a safe manner.