Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Safety, privacy concerns prompt drone policy for Georgetown County schools

GEORGETOWN, SC (WBTW) – The Georgetown County School Board is reviewing a new policy to ban drones from flying over school property.

Director of Safety and Risk Management for the district, Alan Walters, said his main concerns are student safety and privacy.

“We’re just trying to figure a way that it can be done safely,” said Walters.

He said some groups use drones to film football or band practice which would only be allowed if the drone operator got permission from the district.

“We don’t want one dropping out of the sky at a football game or over a playground,” said Walters. “Certainly privacy is an issue that could be used for any sorts of illegally or illicit purposes.”

If someone was using a drone on school property without permission there could be severe consequences.

“If it was used during a sporting event or during school then the operator could potentially be charged with disturbing schools,” said Walters. “Also an operator, if told to take it down and leave and refused to do so, could be considered trespassing and subject to arrest for that.”

The idea came after a federal court recently ruled that hobbyists don’t have to register drones less than 55 pounds.

“So that got us to thinking about it and then in discussing it with some of my counterparts throughout the state, they too were having issues with sports teams and bands and such wanting to use them to record game,  practices and halftime shows,” added Walters.

The Georgetown County School Board has been presented with the policy and may vote on it during their September meeting. You can read the full policy below:

In an effort to maintain the safety, security and privacy of students, staff, and visitors, the use of an unmanned aircraft system (UAS), also known as a drone, is prohibited from being flown or controlled by any person on or over District property without the written permission of this Superintendent or his or her designee, the school’s principal, or the site administrator. For the purpose of this policy, a UAS is any aircraft without a human pilot onboard. 

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