COLUMBIA, Mo. – The University of Missouri has brought a class on using aerial drones indoors after a federal government agency told the journalism school last summer to stop flying them outdoors.
The School of Journalism grounded its outdoor use of the unmanned aircraft for news gathering after receiving a cease and desist letter from the Federal Aviation Administration last summer.
The Columbia Daily Tribune reported Wednesday that a judge in early March ruled that the federal agency lacks the authority to enforce such a ban. The ban remains in place while the FAA appeals that ruling to the National Transportation Safety Board.
Students in a new, one-credit drone journalism class instead learn to fly the devices indoors. The FAA has said it hopes to issue revised rules on commercial drone use by next year.
"There has been mounting interest within the science community on campus, especially in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, to do research and teach using drones," said Bill Allen, who teaches agricultural journalism.
Allen said the 17 students in his class also include those studying business, agriculture science, life sciences and education. The higher-than-expected interest comes as unmanned drones move from military use to civilian and commercial use. That includes a Texas company which uses the devices to search for missing persons -- and which has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the FAA order.
The federal agency has spent a decade working on regulations to give commercial drones access to the national airspace without endangering manned aircraft and the public. Congress then set a September 2015 deadline to get commercial drones back into the sky
The FAA calls the dividing line between a model aircraft and a small drone more one of intent, rather than of technology. If it is used for commercial purposes, it's a drone. If it's used purely for recreational purposes, it's a model aircraft.