To the Editor:
I am writing in response to the article "Fairfax Area Becomes a 'No Drone Zone'" on Thursday Jan. 14. As a junior at West Potomac High School who participates in STEM classes as well as in radio-controlled hobbies outside of school, the recent regulations on the use of drones have been frustrating. As a result of these regulations several community events scheduled by the STEM department have had to be canceled, as well as requiring student travel for testing projects due to the 30 mile radius restrictions.
As a member of the National Association of Rocketry, and the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) I have built and flown rockets and UAS for almost 10 years. As a student enrolled in the Virginia Aerospace
Technology Scholars Program, it requires me to develop, research, and study about unmanned systems in order to prepare research and projects that respond to the program challenges for launch systems into low earth orbit, to the moon, and eventually to Mars. These research projects, in addition to my State Science Fair Awards on my un-manned recovery systems development, have been the core of my goal to eventually be an aerospace engineer.
Since the referenced article was published, the FAA, on May 4, released a memorandum addressing and updating hobby and educational use of UAS:
I believe the most important clarification was the use of UAS by students at an educational institution classifies as a "hobby or recreational" use, meaning that as long as the actions follow Section 336, the actions are lawful. This is extremely important for the STEM classes as it allows for more hassle free use of UAS in the curriculum and for research projects.
This is a good first step towards change, and I applaud the FAA understanding that the use of these new technologies are important to STEM students, and makes clear that model aircraft can be used as a
teaching tool for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), as well as aeronautics. A “No Drone Zone” can be interpreted as a dead zone for student innovation.
West Potomac High School, 17, Junior