Too distracting: Drones banned from football games, other school activities in Twinsburg

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

TWINSBURG, Ohio-- Following rules established by the Ohio High School Athletic Association just this fall, The Twinsburg Board of Education has passed a new resolution banning drones from football games and other school activities.

The OSHAA ban includes all state tournaments and other state-hosted athletic events, but it left local school districts across the state to create their own policies.

Twinsburg joins those that already have issued the ban citing several concerns.

"I'm speaking as myself not on behalf of the board; I think it's still a fairly new technology and whether it would be distracting to the athletes, the officials or perhaps a safety issue that has yet to be uncovered and that would be something that we need to take a serious look at," said Board Vice President Rob Felber.

The district also has concerns about student privacy.

"I think that many districts, Twinsburg City School District included, take student privacy very seriously and I think this is just another challenge that has come up with respect to ways that our students can be photographed and it is happening so fast, but that is a concern to us as well as the safety aspect of the drones," said Felber.

Former Twinsburg punter, Joseph Riley, who also kicked in college, agrees with the ban.

"It would just be a distraction to the players like quarterbacks and receivers especially throwing the ball or trying to catch it or making people miss and trying to score a touchdown. I just feel it would be a nuisance and get in their way and really obstruct from the game," said Riley.

Another former Twinsburg and University of Mount Union football player, Matt Fetchco, says he has seen drones used in practice and believes they can provide another camera angle for the players that can help them evaluate themselves.

"There would be no distraction for me honestly. I don't think it would be a big deal. I think it's alright with me," said Fetchco, who also thought that if drones were flying overhead during a game it might be different.

"I would think during game-time a drone flying over you, I would say it's a distraction to tell you the truth," added Fetchco.

Kent State Assistant Aeronautics professor, Dr.  Blake Stringer, says the FAA already has rules for the use of drones.

Among them is a ban on flying them in crowds, which would include high school football games.

But Stringer says many hobbyists are not familiar with the rules.

"They are fun and they are addicting and people say 'oh look what I can do' and unfortunately they start not thinking about the safety aspects of what they are doing," said Stringer.

Just in the past few weeks there have been drone crashes at a University of Kentucky football game and at the U.S. Open.

Stringer says the drones are machines and even in experienced hands they can malfunction.

Kent State undergraduate aeronautics student, Alex Flock, has flown drones for ten years, including during a NASA Langley internship where he was part of a drone development project.

He says even he would be reluctant to fly them in a crowded stadium.

"I would not fly over the seating area where a lot of people are sitting; flying over the actual field itself while players are playing is another consideration. It's still very unsafe but if you have a fully qualified pilot and also a qualified vehicle that brings the safety risk down," said Flock.

Felber says he is not a drone expert, but he trusts the judgement of the OSHAA in establishing their ban.

"You know I'm not a coach and I'm not playing at that high school level, I just think anything flying low, you know, if it were to fly too low could interfere with a game and  I think the Ohio High School Athletic Association has studied this and made the recommendation based on several of these concerns and I think its appropriate to follow suit at this time," said Felber.

The rules for drones, like the technology, are evolving and other school districts across Ohio are expected to follow the OSHAA and issue more bans.

*More coverage on drones right here*