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Can You Fly a Drone Over a School?

You may be at a school event and want to film it with your drone or you want to get a good shot and have to go over a school. Whichever the case, it’s essential to know if you can fly over a school so you don’t get in trouble.

Can you fly a drone over a school?

You can fly your drone over a school if you follow drone regulations and maintain a safe flight. Don’t fly in crowded areas, avoid taking pictures without consent, check that the school is outside of a no-fly zone, and do not pose a danger to anyone or property within the school’s vicinity.

Make sure you keep reading to learn more about safely using drones around schools!

Why you should be careful about flying drones close to a school

Before we discuss further if you’re allowed to fly drones over schools, let’s first review why it’s dangerous to fly drones carelessly when close to a school.

They could crash

If you happen to fly a drone during a sports day or in the afternoon when students are getting picked up, you risk causing several injuries and damage to property if the drone crashes.

Privacy infringement

Drones are still a sensitive issue; not every school wants a drone with a camera flying over their premises without their consent. Parents too will not be okay with a drone flying over their child’s school due to privacy issues as well as for the safety of their children.

Can you fly a drone over a school?

The FAA doesn’t explicitly prohibit flying drones over schools, but they have laws regulating flying drones over large crowds or vehicles.

This law states that:

  • A drone pilot should not fly drones over people who are unaware of the drone flying over them if they don’t have a roof over their heads or are not in a stationary car.
  • If the drone has to fly over moving vehicles, it should only do so for a short time. The rest of the time, the drone should fly within or over a restricted area, and everyone in the vehicles should be notified about the drone.
  • A drone pilot should fly at a safe distance so that if the drone crashes, it will pose no danger to people and property below it.
  • A drone pilot should exhibit proper airmanship and fly a drone while following all necessary precautions.

Drone categories and their regulations

Drone operations over people are also grouped into categories.

These include:

  • Category 1 – This refers to drones weighing 0.55 pounds or less. Such drones can fly over people, but they should not have any exposed parts, such as propellers, that could cause lacerations. Propeller guards can help meet this requirement. Category 1 drones can also fly over an assembly of people, but not for prolonged periods unless they adhere to Remote ID guidelines.
  • Category 2 – These are drones weighing more than 0.55 pounds. They are allowed to fly over crowds for a short period, and they can fly over people as long as the pilot maintains a safe flight.
  • Category 3 – These drones are not allowed to fly over crowds ever and should only fly over small groups of people as long as they fly from a safe distance or the people are under a roof or a stationary vehicle.
  • Category 4 – These drones need an Airworthiness Certificate. They are allowed to fly over people as long as the operations they partake in allow for flying over people. They can also fly over crowds for a short period unless they have a Remote ID.

Unless otherwise stated, you can fly a drone over a schoolyard or within the school oval as long as your operations don’t pose any danger to people within the school or property close to the school, such as roads or vehicles.

Since the school is owned by someone, whether the city or a private entity, you will need their permission to use drones over their property.

Other laws governing flying drones over schools

The regulations mentioned above are federal laws. However, it’s possible to find states or cities with their own regulations regarding flying over schools.

For instance, in Calabasas, California, drones are not allowed within 200 feet of a school.

In Orlando, Florida, drones cannot fly within 500 feet of a building owned by the city, including schools. However, you can get a permit if you need to fly over a school.

Are schools no-fly zones?

You also need to be aware of the airspace over the school. There are open or unrestricted areas where drones can fly in, and there are no-fly zones.

While schools are not usually no-fly zones, they could be located in a no-fly zone, and you may not be allowed to fly in such regions or may need clearance from the FAA.

DJI drones have geofencing and categorize such areas as follows:

ZoneColorAction
RestrictedRedRequest authorization by contacting flysafe@dji.com or using online unlocking
AltitudeGrayLimited flight altitude
AuthorizationBlueRequest authorization with a DJI-verified account
WarningYellowYou get a warning but can’t unlock the drone
Enhanced warningBrownYou get a prompt and can unlock it like in the Authorization Zone, but you don’t need a verified account
Regulatory restricted zonesLight blueThese are areas restricted by local laws or user agencies. For instance, you aren’t allowed to fly in parks or prisons.
Recommended flightGreenThis is the area you are allowed to fly in.

Before you fly over a school, make sure it lies within an area you are allowed to fly in or get the necessary authorization where possible.

If you don’t have access to the DJI’s map or you want more updated information on temporarily locked areas, weather, and other data necessary for flying drones, install the B4UFLY app.

What about teachers or students? Can they fly drones at a school?

Can teachers or students use drones at school? Yes, they can, as long as they fly safely.

Teachers can introduce drones to students, but they should follow all necessary regulations and inform the student’s parents of the activities due to the potential risk drones pose to students if used recklessly.

Drones have several benefits in a school setting, such as:

  • STEM – Drones are an excellent way to introduce students to math and science. There are several programs around that teach students how to assemble and program a drone, equipping them with the technical skills they will need for real-life problem-solving tasks.
  • Physical education – Drones can also help students exercise as they play with them outdoors.
  • Creativity – Drones with cameras can help students unleash their creative side through photography, videography, or even writing.
  • Geography – Viewing geographic features from a bird’s eye view gives the learner a better perspective and a better way to appreciate nature.

Conclusion

Prohibiting drones around schools may not be ideal since the schools can use them too, so it’s up to the pilots to ensure the students, staff, parents, and anyone within or close to the school is not affected by their activities.

References:
FAA (link)