Libraries Admit Defeat, Begin Lending Drones

Florida school buys two drones for students to rent (with training)

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Students at a Florida school can rent out drones from the library, but do the $1,500 gadgets actually have enough academic use?     Photo: Prentice Wongvibulsin/Flickr

Ice fishermen are still deprived of drone-delivered beer, and some naysayers still want to shoot down amateur droners' fun, but flying drones isn't hard if you've got a library card. The University of South Florida (USF) had some spare funds after receiving a digital learning grant, so naturally it decided to purchase two $1,500 drones that students can use for "coursework and research" starting this fall.

Students will need to complete a training course before getting their hands on the DJI Phantom 2 Vision drones. The remote-controlled drones are equipped with video cameras and, according to USF, should be useful for academic reasons like getting an aerial view of wetlands. The school plans to use the drones to create an environmental map of the campus. Bill Garrison, USF libraries dean, told the Atlantic that the drones may help libraries become "a real part of the campus" because, you know, providing books is not interesting enough.

USF isn't worried about angering the Federal Aviation Administration, which currently allows drones for recreational use. But there are other doubters—one USF physics major was hard-pressed for an answer when USA Today asked how she might use a drone. A public health major said, "I feel it may have been to just 'show off my shiny new toy,' not solely for the advancement of the students." Ouch.

The big question is how long until the first college stereotype plays itself out drone-style? Maybe a crash landing at an ultimate Frisbee tournament or a drinking-while-droning disaster? We can only hope the camera's turned on when it happens.

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