Volume 97 Issue 6 News

Juniata bans hoverboards & drones

by Julia Wagner

Drones and hoverboards have recently been banned on Juniata’s campus due to hazards and government regulation. The campus community was informed of the changes through an email issued by the Dean of Students Office.

The e-mail stated, “Recently the safety of self-balancing electric wheeled boards (hoverboards) has come into question. The main issue is the fire hazard associated with the lithium battery.”

The policy, as described in the e-mail, prohibits “the use, possession, charging and/or storage of these devices” on any Juniata College owned or rented properties.

Daniel Cook- Huffman, interim dean of students, said,  “The committee reviewed the policy, or really developed the policy then made a proposal to the senior leadership team which includes the president and the vice-presidents and we reviewed that proposal and accepted their recommendation at this time.”

Despite the current ban on hoverboards, they may be permitted again in the future. “We love to see where that kind of thing is buzzing around, hoverboards are buzzing around. We want to maximize (the students’) freedom to enjoy those kinds of things. (They can enjoy them as) soon as we have hoverboards that have been proven through UL and other kinds of product testing agency’s that certify their product,” said Cook-Huffman.

 The email mainly addressed the use of hoverboards, but drones were mentioned at the end of the email: “Because of the air restrictions due to our very close proximity to the local hospital heliport and that helicopters frequently fly in the Juniata College ‘air space,’ the College has instituted a new policy that complies with federal and state law and does not allow the unauthorized operation of drones or other ‘unmanned’ flying machines on or near the campus.”

The College does own drones and is authorized to use them for certain events. The authorization is based on laws involving unmanned aircraft systems as dictated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). “The drones ban is all in accordance with the FAA,” said Jesse Leonard, director of Juniata College Public Safety and interim director of residential life.

In addition to FAA regulations, there are also matters of privacy. “We don’t really want people to just be able to fly drones around and snoop on people,” said Cook-Huffman.

However, students would be permitted to use drones with expressed permission from administration.

There are positives to drone regulation. “(The ban) might stem from more from how (drones are) used, I know there have been some privacy issues with them and I think when its regulated through a school or through a supervised activity it can stay on that focused tract,” said junior Kevin Bonalle.

Last semester, this ban was not yet in place and there were several students who owned and used hoverboards. “My initial reaction was it’s about time, I was kind of expecting it, I wasn’t really shocked by any means,” said Bonalle, who owns a hoverboard. “Mine’s never had any issues, knock on wood, but it’s a safety issue. You don’t want to lose a dorm building because one kid wants to be riding around.”

The primary safety concern with hoverboards is the lithium battery used to power the device. They have been known to spontaneously combust, often times causing serious injury or death. Some campuses have implemented outdoor charging stations to combat this problem, but Juniata does not consider that a viable option considering Pennsylvania weather.

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