THOUSAND PALMS, Calif. - Students at the University of South Florida will be soaring to new academic heights, with drones.
College students will be getting their hands on more than just books at the USF come the fall semester. The Tampa campus plans to offer remote-controlled drones for students to check out for school-related projects.
It's a bold move considering that more places are starting to limit the access of drones, including the National Park Service, which announced a temporary ban on the use of drones on Friday. The NPS announcement basically bars the access of unmanned devices to 84 million acres of land in the U.S.
Yet, USF is taking a different approach to drones, making the technology more accessible to its students. The library purchased two drones with some leftover money from a grant to remodel its facility with new technology. These drones are capable of taking aerial video and photography.
The library's hope is to integrate new technology to its services. In the past year, the library has worked to expand its "Digital Media Commons" in an effort to promote digital learning. Now, USF's library is taking it a step further by giving students the opportunity to operate the drones, which are valued at $1,500 apiece.
Dean of USF Libraries Bill Garrison says the drones could be a great resource for students working on multimedia projects, and sees the program working in conjunction with other departments at the university.
"We have a global sustainability program, and they are mapping out the campus to see energy usage, so they can use the drones to help map out the campus," he explained. "There are a lot of opportunities for research and learning by using drones. And the faculty can use it, too."
Flying these drones will not be as simple as swiping a library card, though.
Students will need to enroll in a training course before they can check out the equipment. They'll also be required to provide an explanation on how the drone will be utilized in a school project, and they must be supervised by a faculty member while operating it around the campus. As of now, the program aims to keep the drones on USF's campus unless a professor makes the case for an exception, and students will be liable for any damages to the equipment.
Garrison says the move to introduce drones to the school's library service is part of a larger effort to stay relevant on campus by providing more digital learning tools.
"One of the things many libraries have struggled with is how do you become a real part of the campus and not be viewed as a book warehouse," he said. "I find it very exciting that we are able to do this, and I think the students will appreciate it."