University restricts drones, hoverboards

— Washington State University, which has a campus in the Tri-Cities and a research center in Prosser, has effectively banned two popular tech toys, drones and hoverboards.

The campus bans went into effect last week.

Hoverboards, which are actually electronic skateboards, have recently shown a tendency to burst into flames or explode while charging, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. As a result, the campus has banned storing the devices on campus.

“We believe this is a very serious fire safety concern, particularly on residential campuses,” WSU Fire Marshall Rod Holmes said.

The ban is temporary, but will last until manufacturers of hoverboards can demonstrate the batteries meet safety standards reliably.

The university’s ban prohibits the storage and possession of such devices in residence halls, university apartments, academic buildings, research buildings, recreational facilities or other structures on university-owned properties. This includes the Prosser Agricultural Research Center.

Washington State University staff said the ban is not a reaction to any incident on campus, but a precautionary measure due to the number of reported fire and explosion incidents involving hoverboards.

The university has not actually banned drones, but university officials want students to follow new FAA regulations.

Any drone or unmanned aircraft systems that weighs more than 0.55 pounds at takeoff, including any cameras or sensors, must be registered and marked.

However, flying drones on the main Pullman campus is already limited due to its proximity to the Moscow-Pullman Regional Airport. Drones cannot be legally operated within a five-mile radius of an airport due to safety measures.

WSU Police Chief Bill Gardner urged students flying drones off campus to follow FAA rules, keeping the drones below 400 feet in altitude, keeping the drone in sight at all times, never flying near groups of people, never flying near emergency response teams and checking for any other restrictions in the area before flying a drone.



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