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  • Faculty, staff, and students who use drones are responsible for knowing and abiding by Williams College UAS Policy, including making sure the drone and potentially the pilot have registered with the College. Guests of Williams College (visiting speakers, contractors, students from other schools, etc.) must be sponsored by an employee of the College.

    • An unmanned aerial system (UAS) or ‘drone’ can be any remotely controlled vehicle, and can be used for terrestrial, subterranean, deep sea, aerial, and extraterrestrial operations. It is a system because, at a minimum, its operation requires communication via transmitter/receiver technology. More sophisticated UAS are integrated with commercial software and global positioning systems (GPS).

      The recent evolution of UAS include designs that are not limited to scaled models of real-life aircraft, but are instead designed for optimal performance for specific tasks and/or environments. The US military uses large fixed-wing UAS for high altitude operations, but commercially there are many smaller designs available. Many commercial drone products are not fixed-wing and typically utilize four (4) or more horizontal propellers. These newer multi-propeller designs leverage on-board and remote technologies that allow for stable flight operations as well as the use of additional non-operational functions.

      http://www.af.mil/News/Photos.aspx?igphoto=2000398487 DJI, Phantom
      Military Commercial

    • For research, teaching, administrative purposes, art and fun! Drones allow for exploration and data collection that would be difficult or cost-prohibitive to acquire using traditional methods. They provide a platform to study robotics, and autonomous control and feedback mechanisms. Videographers and photographers use drones to capture shots and motion paths that would otherwise be impossible or cost prohibitive. Students who are skilled as pilots or researchers with this technology will be in a stronger position both academically and professionally. Drones allow inspection of buildings and safety monitoring. Plus, recreational flying as a hobby has shown a 100% increase year over year for the past two years!

      As just one example, remote sensing technologies such as multi-spectral cameras may be mounted onto UAS aircraft. Using a procedure referred to as structure from motion (SfM), computer algorithms can differentially process aerial imagery to calculate general topography, structural dimensions, or volumes. Using a technology called LiDAR, highly accurate three dimensional measurements may be taken of a landscape or structure (essentially a 3D model of everything in a geographic area). Under specific conditions there may be potential to use peripheral technologies for physical sampling or broadcasting (dispersals). UAS data collections can then be input into a geographic information system (GIS) for further spatial analysis and modeling of real world conditions or phenomena.

    • A pilot remotely operates the UAS by maintaining visual line-of-sight (instrument only manual operation is prohibited), however automated flight paths may be allowable under very specific conditions. As with other aircraft, the pilot can remotely control pitch, roll, and yaw operations, and thereby control the direction, altitude, and velocity of the aircraft.

      All UAS operations are conditional and governed by the US FAA. This is because all aircraft operate with significant risk (i.e. against gravity, weather, obstructions, etc.). In addition, UAS must share airspace with other aircraft whose paths and uses have right-of-way.

      Finally, although some uses of UAS require remote pilot certification (RPC) from the US FAA, the RPC process is not nearly as demanding as it is for operating manned aircraft.

    • The summary below lists the most important things to know, but you are responsible for reviewing and understanding the Williams UAS Policy as a whole before you fly at Williams.

      • You must abide by all applicable FAA rules.
      • All drone use related to teaching, research, administration, or that otherwise benefits Williams College is considered Commercial Use.
      • All other drone use is considered Recreational Use.
      • All Commercial Use drone flights require FAA Remote Pilot Certification.
      • All Recreational Use is limited to Poker Flats, drones weighing less than 5 lbs, and possession of liability insurance.
      • All drones must be registered with Williams College.
      • All commercial drone pilots must be registered with Williams College.
      • All on-campus flights must take place within designated fly zones.
      • All drone flights require two people - one pilot and one observer.

      If you would like assistance getting started or have other questions, please refer to the Consultation section.

  • Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about drone use at Williams College. If you have a question that hasn’t already been answered, please refer to the Consultation section for more information.

    • Yes. All drones must be registered with Williams College regardless of size. Drones weighing more than 0.55 pounds must first be registered with the FAA. To register a drone at Williams, please refer to the Procedures-Register a UAS section for details.

    • It depends. Recreational use does not require pilot registration with Williams College (although you must register your UAS). Commercial use does require pilot registration with Williams College, and requires FAA Remote Pilot Certification (RPC) prior to registering with Williams. To register as a pilot at Williams, please refer to the Procedures-Register as a UAS Pilot section of the Williams UAS Policy for details.

    • You should contact CSS immediately, x4444.

    • Put simply, FAA Part 101 and FAA Part 107  are two regulatory frameworks that distinguish the use of unmanned aircraft even though the type of unmanned aircraft may be identically defined. Part 101 concerns recreational (hobby) use, while Part 107 is inclusive of recreational use but primarily concerns commercial (business) use. Both rules have similar requirements with regard to weight class and airspace restrictions, with Part 107 having additional allowances and requirements for commercial use.

    • Yes. In fact, this type of tandem activity may be essential to effective videography, remote sensing, or other non-operational activities.

    • Yes, but only under the direct supervision of a Williams registered UAS operator and observer. Refer to the Requirements-Operation section of the policy for more information.

    • Please refer to FAA Remote Pilot Certification (RPC) for more information. If you would like assistance with obtaining RPC please refer to the Consultation section for more information.

    • Once your request has been submitted it will undergo an initial review. You will then be contacted if there are questions or concerns about your request and to answer any questions you may have about the evaluation process. The duration of the evaluation process will vary with each request depending on the substance of the request and the number of subject matter experts or stakeholders needing to be involved. Some requests may quickly result in an Approved or Denied decision, while others may involve significant research and discussion to arrive at a decision.

    • Flying UAS on Williams property is only allowed in designated fly zones. Please see the Requirements-Designated Fly Zones section for more information.

    • A UAS is highly valuable for teaching and research. It allows for aerial-based exploration and data collection that would be difficult to acquire from the ground or cost-prohibitive using traditional aircraft. Students who are skilled with this technology will be in a stronger position both academically and professionally.

      For example, remote sensing technologies such as multispectral cameras may be mounted onto UAS aircraft. Using a procedure referred to as structure from motion (SfM), computer algorithms can differentially process aerial imagery to calculate general topography, structural dimensions, or volumes. Using a technology called LiDAR, highly accurate three dimensional measurements may be taken of a landscape or structure (essentially a 3D model of everything within a geographic area). Peripheral technologies also may be used for physical sampling or broadcasting. UAS data collections can then be input into a geographic information system (GIS) for further spatial analysis and modeling of real world conditions or phenomena.

      Please refer to the Consultation section for assistance.

    • At Williams College, you may benefit from using UAS in inaccessible areas or for tasks that would otherwise be time/labor intensive. For example, after a storm you may want to assess roof damage to several buildings - although you could do this manually using bucket lifts, using a drone requires fewer people and equipment and may yield a more comprehensive and flexible assessment in far less time. Yet another example may be flying for videography purposes, where a UAS could be used to create sweeping yet intimate footage of the campus.

      A drone can do more than take pictures or video. Using a procedure referred to as structure from motion (SfM), computer algorithms can differentially process aerial imagery to calculate general topography, structural dimensions, or volumes. Using a technology called LiDAR, highly accurate three dimensional measurements may be taken of a landscape or structure (essentially a 3D model of everything within a geographic area).

      Please refer to the Consultation section for assistance.

    • Yes, so long as it meets FAA requirements and does not qualify as Commercial Use (i.e. performing work that benefits Williams College). Please see the Requirements-Designated Fly Zones section for more information.

    • No. Williams College only allows Recreational or Commercial use of drones. If you are College faculty or staff, or students working for College faculty or staff, or the product or service of flying benefits the College, then you are flying for commercial purposes. All uses other than commercial must meet the conditions for recreational flying.

      This may seem counter intuitive given the term "educational use" and the mission of Williams College. The term arose from a need in K-12 education to use drones in teaching that are not strictly recreational use, but without the burden of other regulatory requirements for commercial use. As a result, the concept is poorly defined and not officially embodied in FAA regulations.

    • It depends. In US airspace you must still abide by FAA regulations as well as any state or local laws regarding UAS privacy or safety. You must also have permission from the owner (public or private) before flying on another property, and it is strongly recommended that you obtain permission from abutting landowners as well.

      If you intend to fly in another country or in international airspace, then other laws and jurisdictions or conditions may apply.

    • It depends. Within US airspace FAA regulations apply, but outside it there may be other governing structures in place. As with all field research in other countries you should identify all requirements and anticipate possible restrictions or risks. For example, some areas may have loosely defined governments shaped by local authority figures, and you may need to be very flexible (and cautious) about obtaining permission to fly in those areas.

  • These helpful resources provide detail and context for Williams UAS Policy, operational support, and planning ideas.

    • Altitude (Mean Sea Level vs. Above Ground Level)

      Coordinate Systems & Mean Sea Level

      Mean Sea Level

      NOAA Aviation Weather

      Supports weather planning for regional flights.

      Global Positioning Systems

      Official U.S. government information about the Global Positioning System (GPS) and related topics.

      GPS Constellation Planning

      To capture accurate horizontal and vertical data in the field, it is essential that adequate satellite coverage is available for positioning. Use a satellite constellation planning tool to schedule field operations during optimal coverage times.

      GPS Post-Processing

      Various ground-based stations can be used to improve locational accuracy of poor GPS data obtained during periods of interference or lack of satellite coverage. Choose a station nearest your collection site. Upload GPS files to be post-processed.

      OPUS - Online Positioning User Interface.

      CenterPoint RTX - Trimble GPS processing service.

      CSRS-PPP - Canadian Spatial Reference System.

      APPS - Automatic Precise Positioning Service.

      SCOUT - Scripps Orbit and Permanent Array Center (SOPAC).

      AUSPOS - Australian GPS processing service.

      GAPS - GPS Analysis and Positioning Software.

      Academy of Model Aeronautics

      This well known organization qualifies as an FAA "community-based organization," and offers members liability insurance up to US$1M for recreational flying.

      Center for the Study of the Drone (Bard College / West Point)

      "The Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College is an interdisciplinary research institution that examines the novel and complex opportunities and challenges presented by unmanned systems technologies in both the military and civilian sphere." 

      Drone Zone

      Different from the FAA website - this is a commercial news and forum site for UAS enthusiasts.

      SkyVector

  • Information about equipment loans and acquisitions may be found in the Drones at Williams course.

  • Training resources are in development.

    • TBD.

    • RPC Practice Testing

      Using practice test questions, this workshop will review how interpreting the phrasing of a question can help you choose from multiple potential answers. It will also cover how to read aeronautical maps for flight planning.

      Guided Flight Practice

      Live field practice for both pilots and observers using a College drone to 1) gain experience and proficiency with flying under different conditions, 2) incorporate safety procedures for observation, signage, etc., 3) practice hypothetical scenarios and responding to changing conditions, and 4) learn communication best practices between pilots and observers as well as between observers and the public near an active flight operation.

      Williams Drone Policy Orientation

      An introduction session specific to how FAA regulations apply to the Williams College campus, followed by discussion of requirements and expectations above and beyond FAA regulations.

      Photography & Videography

      An introduction to the technical considerations of both camera and drone technologies, an overview of the Williams Drone Policy, precautions for safety and privacy, and best practices for achieving good results in the field.

      Aerial Imaging & Photogrammetry

      An introduction to the technical considerations for planning and undertaking serialized aerial imaging, an overview of the Williams Drone Policy, precautions for safety and privacy, best practices for achieving good results in the field, and principles of photogrammetry and post-processing imagery.