Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s…a UAV?

By Jeff Kirchman, University Natural Areas Police Liaison Officer
FP&M Marketing and Communications

The popularity of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, more commonly known as ‘drones’, has never been higher. Reduced costs, improved operating software, and just the downright cool factor have made them accessible and easy to use for just about anyone.

There’s no doubt drones can be fun to operate and can be a great choice for a hobby. But there are rules in the university area that need to be followed for safe and appropriate operation.

For example, were you aware the University has a specific policy regarding the operation of drones? It’s known as the Research Vehicle Safety Oversight policy . Consider the following language regarding recreational use of drones: “Recreational or hobbyist unmanned aircraft operations by students, employees, or visitors are not permitted on UW–Madison premises.”

The policy does allow drone use for education, research, and certain non-educational purposes. However, that use must be approved using the process outlined in the policy.

The University’s natural areas, like the Lakeshore Nature Preserve, can be a strong draw for drone operators looking for interesting sites to view from new angles. But, beyond University policy, be aware drones could have a negative impact on wildlife, especially birds. This could also be considered a violation of Wisconsin state law protecting wildlife on university lands.

It’s also important to point out that the Preserve is in close proximity to University Hospital’s heliport. The Federal Aviation Administration maintains very strict rules about operating UAVs anywhere that could interfere with aircraft, like helicopters.

If you’re thinking of taking off into the fun, exciting world of drone operation, please make sure your flights are safe, legal, and follow all appropriate rules.

Officer Kirchman can be reached at jkirchman@wisc.edu or through the UWPD non-emergency dispatch at 608-264-2677.