Virginia Tech Drone Documents

Drone Watch filed this request with the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University of Virginia .
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From: Drone Watch

To Whom It May Concern:

Pursuant to Virginia Freedom of Information Act, I hereby request the following records:

1. any requests for proposals, proposals submitted by vendors, contracts, budgets or cost allocations for the purchase, research of and/or use of aerial drones, UAs, UAVs, and UASs (hereinafter “drones”);

2. any policies, guidelines, manuals and/or instructions on use of drones, including on the legal process required (such as a warrant or court order), if any, before operating a drone;

3. any records concerning use of drones now or plans to use drones in the future including:

a. the types of investigations or instances in which this department is using or plans to use drones, or how it plans to support, manage or oversee the usage of drones by another department or office;

b. policies, guidelines, manuals and/or instructions on storage requirements or procedures for video or static images obtained through use of drones, including retention times;

c. the altitude at which drones can or do fly;

d. drones’ ability to carry weapons.

I also request that, if appropriate, fees be waived as I believe this request is in the public interest. The requested documents will be made available to the general public free of charge as part of the public information service at MuckRock.com, processed by a representative of the news media/press and is made in the process of news gathering and not for commercial usage.

In the event that fees cannot be waived, I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request. I would prefer the request filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 5 business days, as the statute requires.

Sincerely,

Catherine MacDonald

From: Norris, B. J.

Ms. McDonald:

The university, a state agency, is subject to the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Virginia’s FOIA (§ 2.2-3704 A.) covers only citizens of the Commonwealth and certain representatives of the media. However, as a matter of policy, Virginia Tech has elected to voluntarily respond to records requests from individuals/organizations not meeting these criteria, provided the information requested would otherwise be available under the Virginia FOIA.

Please be advised that Virginia's FOIA also requires that FOIA requests be reasonably specific. Therefore, regarding your item #1, please specify what timeframe for which you are asking for documents. Additionally, please explain what types of documents you requesting under items #3c and #3d.

Please also be advised that, consistent with Virginia's FOIA and universit policy, the university does charge for non-routine requests such as yours. Once we receive your response concerning items #1, #3c and #3d, we will prepare an estimate of the cost. You will be required to pay the estimated amount prior to our responding. Also, be advised that the information you have requested could be substantial and could involve significant time to identify and to determine whether they are subject to release. Some, if not many, are likely to be determined to contain proprietary information, or be subject to withholding under other provisions of the FOIA. You will be required to pay for the time it takes to identify these documents and to determine whether they are releasable, whether or not the documents are ultimately provided.

From: Drone Watch

Hello Mr. Norris,

The past 10 years of records would suffice. Regarding item 3, any contracts, proposals or studies mentioning those aspects would work.

Thanks,

Tom Nash/MuckRock

on behalf of Catherine

From: Norris, B. J.

Thanks, Tom/Catherine.

As I indicated in my initial response, the information you are requesting could be substantial. As such, it is taking considerable time to compile the estimate I referenced in that response.

We will respond as soon as practicable.

I remind you that our estimate will include the time to identify all documents subject to your request and to determine whether they would be subject to release under Virginia's FOIA. Some, if not many, are likely to be determined to contain proprietary information, or be subject to withholding under other provisions of the FOIA. You will be required to pay for the time it takes to identify these documents and to determine whether they are releasable, whether or not the documents are ultimately provided.

From: Norris, B. J.

Tom/Catherine,

I apologize for the delay in getting you this estimate. I was unexpectedly out of the office for several days.

As noted previously, consistent with section 2.2-3704(F) of Virginia's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), it is the policy of the university to charge requestors for the provision of records. Virginia Tech estimates the cost of searching, accessing, making determinations concerning release, duplicating and supplying the records you have requested to be $4,740. Please note, this is an estimate. The actual cost may be more or less depending on the category of employee involved, the actual time needed to access, review, determine whether to release, and, where applicable, provide the records. We will also charge a per page duplication fee for any records provided, which is not included in this estimate. Also, as noted below, we charge for our time to access and review records, whether or not the documents are ultimately provided.

Consistent with section 2.2-3704(H) of Virginia's FOIA, before continuing to process your request, Virginia Tech will require a deposit of the estimated amount, $4,740. The deposit shall be credited toward the final cost. Should the final cost be less than this estimate, you will receive a refund for the difference. Please remit your deposit by check made payable to "Treasurer of Virginia Tech" and mail to:

Office of University Relations
Attn: Theresa Hoyle
Virginia Tech
315 Burruss Hall (0229)
Blacksburg, VA 24061

Once we have received your deposit, we will work with you to establish a reasonable timeframe to provide the documentation you are requesting or explanation for documentation not provided.

Please contact me should you have any questions.

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