AUSTIN (KXAN) — The University of Texas Police Chief David Carter explained for the first time why officers detained the UT student responsible for flying a drone over Saturday night’s football game.
According to police, the student was controlling the drone from close proximity outside the Darrell K Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium. KXAN’s cameras spotted the drone flying above the crowds in the second half of UT’s home opener against the University of North Texas. The drone was flashing red and green lights, and had a camera attached to it.
UTPD later detained the student and seized his drone for an investigation.
“At the time we basically looked at the possibility of reckless conduct. We had an obligation to identify the person and that person was not initially cooperative with police in terms of identifying himself and his purposes looking at the drone. It was a detention, a lawful detention to conduct an investigation,” said Carter.
Since the investigation is ongoing, Carter could not release the name of the student. So far, no charges have been filed.
UT police say they are also looking at another incident from Saturday, where a separate group of people were flying a drone outside the stadium. Police say those people were not detained because they were cooperative when questioned.
An increasing number of people are using drones for commercial and recreational purposes. The laws surrounding drone use are still evolving.
The University of Texas said Sunday they were concerned with the use of drones and safety on campus is their priority. On Tuesday, they released another statement refuting the assertion the public university would fall under public property fair game for drones.
“The University of Texas at Austin is a public university, however that does not mean our buildings and/or campus is public property and open for use by the public.
The public is admitted to buildings by invitation. For example, Darrell K. Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium (DKR) is a facility in which the public is granted admission with a limited license (a ticket).”
Drones are regulated under model-airplane rules. The FAA oversees their use to some extent, but state law primarily governs drones.
FAA regulations say model aircraft can fly below 400 feet if they are away from airports and air traffic. They must also stay within sight of the operator.
Texas state law requires drone pilots to have permission from property owners to shoot aerial images of their property. Violating that law can cost offenders up to $1,000 for every image they take.
In 2012, Congress gave the FAA three years to come up with specific regulations on drone use. They should be in place by September 2015.