Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Drones will soon be available to USF students for projects

TAMPA — The drone, no bigger than a pizza box, sat Friday in an open field.

Maryellen Allen stood next to the plastic machine clutching a remote control. She turned to her three colleagues nearby. "Want to see it fly?" she asked.

She flipped a switch and the drone hovered off the ground, its four propellers whirring.

Buzzing like a pack of angry yellow jackets, it rose higher and higher, wobbling whenever the wind picked up.

Minutes later, Allen directed it back to earth, where the drone landed with a soft thud. "Pretty cool, huh?" she said.

Allen is an assistant director at the University of South Florida libraries, which recently received a $75,000 grant to fund a digital renovation project that will provide students with additional computers and technological resources.

It also funded the purchase of two drones, said Bill Garrison, dean of the libraries.

The drones are painted white and weigh about 5 pounds, with a video camera attached to their underbelly. They cost $1,500 apiece and have red and blue wing tips. They're capable of flying 400 feet above the ground. And they look more like remote-control airplanes than intelligence-gathering machines.

"The education potential is limitless," said Nancy Cunningham, the director of academic services at the libraries.

Cunningham and Garrison watched Friday as Allen controlled the drone through the air during a demonstration. The officials said the drones will be available for student use in the fall semester, but with several stipulations.

Users must be students. They need to undergo training and pass a test to prove they can effectively operate the machine. Students can check out the drones only if they have a specific research plan.

Environmental studies majors, for example, can capture video of contaminated terrains, Cunningham said. Urban planners can scout out potential building sites. Architects can now "fly" inside their designs from the ground and locate flaws.

"It offers a whole new perspective," Allen said.

Drones are relatively new technology only now becoming more accessible to the public. That's why they are drawing attention from the Federal Aviation Agency, which has a specific set of policies for their use.

A spokesperson from the agency said Friday that flying a model aircraft as a hobby or for recreation doesn't require FAA authorization. Little other comment was offered.

Garrison, the dean of libraries, said the university will adhere to all regulations.

"It's not a toy," he said.

Zack Peterson can be reached at or(813) 226-3446.

Maryellen Allen, an assistant director at the USF libraries, operates one of USF’s two new drones Friday in Tampa. The drones are capable of flying 400 feet above the ground.


Maryellen Allen, an assistant director at the USF libraries, operates one of USF’s two new drones Friday in Tampa. The drones are capable of flying 400 feet above the ground.

Drones will soon be available to USF students for projects 06/20/14 [Last modified: Friday, June 20, 2014 8:22pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Storm routs Cleveland


    TAMPA — Alvin Ray Jackson intercepted two passes, returning one for a touchdown, and recovered two fumbles as the Storm routed Cleveland 57-27 Saturday night in its home regular-season finale at Amalie Arena.

  2. Miscue sends Rays to another stinging loss to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays gave away DJ Kitty onesies Saturday night. Then they gave away the game.

    Rays centerfielder Mallex Smith misses a drive hit by Adrian Beltre with two outs in the sixth, allowing the tying runs to score. Beltre puts Texas ahead 4-3 when he scores after two wild pitches.
  3. Rowdies shut out Charleston


    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rowdies know a thing or two about stalemates, with five of their past 10 games ending in a draw.

    Rowdies in the first half during the game between Tampa Bay Rowdies and the Charleston Battery at Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Saturday, Jul 22, 2017.
  4. 13-year-old Janessa's father holds memorial service at Rogers Middle School


    RIVERVIEW — About 100 people sat in the tile-floored multipurpose room Saturday at Rodgers Middle School where Janessa Shannon once sat as a student.

    A mourner embraces Nahshon Shannon after the memorial service for Nahshon’s daughter, Janessa, Saturday at Rodgers Middle School in Riverview.
  5. Trump: Aircraft carrier a symbol of America's might (w/video)


    NORFOLK, Va. — With praise and a blessing for the military, President Donald Trump helped hand over the USS Gerald R. Ford to the Navy on Saturday and said the state-of-the-art aircraft carrier will send a "100,000-ton message to the world" about America's military might when it is ultimately deployed.

    President Donald Trump commissions the USS Gerald R. Ford on Saturday in Norfolk, Va.