Safety Policies

SY45 Use of Unmanned Aircraft ("UA")

Policy Status: 


Policy Steward: 

Assistant Vice-President for Police and Public Safety / Director of Environmental Health and Safety; Associate Vice President for Research, Director of the Office for Research Protections



To define the requirements for the use of Unmanned Aircraft (“UA”) on property owned or controlled by The Pennsylvania State University (“Penn State” or “University”), or elsewhere for University-Affiliated Activities.


Operator: any person controlling the flight of a UA, whether through the direct operation as a pilot or under the supervision of a remote pilot in command. 

Restricted Areas: University Property that the University has deemed too sensitive or unsafe to permit use of UA.   

Unmanned Aircraft (“UA”): an aircraft operated without the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the aircraft.   

University-Affiliated Activity: an event, function or activity sponsored by the University, or a University department, organization, or group.  This includes research activities conducted under the auspices of the University but does not include activities by recognized student organizations.  

University Property: all property owned, occupied, or leased by The Pennsylvania State University.  This does not include property that is solely owned, occupied, or leased by Penn State Health and governed by Penn State Health policy.  


A. On University Property

Use of UA on University Property is prohibited unless the operator is a student, University employee (in the course of their employment), or other individual approved by the University to operate a UA.  Approval for all UA operations on University Property must be provided by the UA Operations Manager.
All use of UA on University Property, for any purpose, must abide by the applicable FAA authorization.   University students and recognized student organizations may operate a UA on University Property in accordance with FAA regulations for model aircraft (14 C.F.R. Part 101), if they are using the UA for hobby and recreational use only (which can include educational activities conducted as part of a student’s coursework).  Note that 14 C.F.R. Part 101 operations must follow a community based set of safety guidelines; thus, when operating on University Property, UA operations under Part 101 must abide by the Academy of Model Aeronautics National Model Aircraft Safety Code (AMA).
Restricted & Altitude Restricted Areas.  Use of UA in Restricted Areas, or in violation of the maximum altitude above the ground in Altitude Restricted Areas, is prohibited by all UA operators, for any purpose.  Each University campus, in collaboration with the UA Operations Manager, will be responsible for developing and publishing a map identifying Restricted Areas and Altitude Restricted Areas Map for its respective campus.  If applicable, space may be deemed a Restricted Area only for particular day and/or times. Access to site specific information will be via

B. For University-Affiliated Activities Not on University Property

Use of UA for University-Affiliated Activities must abide by University policy as well as the rules and regulations governing the area of flight.  


All use of UA on University Property and all use of UA on non-University property by the University, its students and employees, or third party contractors or affiliates for University-Affiliated activities must abide by the following requirements:

  1. University UA Operations Manual.  All UA operations on University Property or as part of a University-Affiliated activity must be conducted in accordance with the applicable federal, state, and local laws, as well as the University’s UA Operations Manual, which addresses issues such as training, pre- and post-flight procedures, flight logs, safety concerns and flight restrictions. 

  2. Registration. All UA requiring registration with the FAA must also be registered with the University.  

  3. Insurance. All registered UA must be insured unless the operation is being conducted by individual students as a model aircraft in accordance with 14 C.F.R. Part 101.  Contractor’s evidence of insurance must be provided to and verified by the University’s Risk Management Office.  UA operations by student organizations require insurance; however, student organizations are responsible for providing their own insurance.

  4. License. Operators must possess and supply their piloting credentials to the University prior to flight. Students operating under 14 C.F.R. Part 101 are not required to possess a remote pilot license, however, they are required to have completed the University’s UA Compliance Course.  

  5. Safety. Use of UA shall not create an undue hazard to life or property, and they may not be operated in a way which invades privacy, unduly affects the environment of those working within a building, or those entering, exiting or walking around a facility or University Property. The UA must be under the control of the operator at all times.

  6. Permissions. UA Operators of UA operations that are part of a University-Affiliated Activity but not on University Property must receive documented permission from the property owner of the property where the UA operations will occur.  Such permission shall be provided to the UA Operations Manager upon request.

  7. Accident Reporting. All accidents that result in injury or that cause property damage (other than to the UA itself) must be reported to the UA Operations Manager within 24 hours.  Accidents that result in serious injury or property damage over $500 must be reported immediately.  Details on reporting criteria and processes can be found at  In addition, all injuries must be reported as outlined in Policy SY04, Employee Accidents – Reporting and Investigation, and SY05, Injuries to Any Person, And Reporting Incidents Involving Other Than Employees.

  8. Public Venues. UA may not be operated above public open-air events, inside University athletic and entertainment venues open to the public, or above thoroughfares without prior approval by the University.

  9. Airport. UA, operating as a model aircraft under Part 101, may not be operated within a 5 mile radius of any airport designated by the FAA, without prior notice by the operator of the UA to the airport operator and air traffic control tower.  Site specific information may be found

  10. Third Party Operations.  In addition to the aforementioned requirements, if a University unit arranges for a third party to operate a UA on University Property or for a University-Affiliated Activity,

    a. The unit shall contact the Risk Management Office to ensure that the UA owner and operator has adequate liability insurance and takes the risk mitigation arrangements deemed appropriate.
    b. If a third party will be operating under their own FAA waiver or authorization, the third party will provide copy to the UA Operations Manager for prior approval.
    c. The third party shall provide documentation supporting the operator’s certification and medical readiness.



Any exceptions or waivers to the FAA regulations on flight or this Policy must be pursued through the University’s UA Operations Manager.  


UA Operator: the operator of the UA is directly responsible for, and is the final authority as to, the operation of that UA. The Operator is responsible for ensuring UA operations complies with federal, state, and local laws as well as this Policy.  

Office for Research Protections (ORP): The University shall establish and maintain policy and procedures for safe and compliant use of UA operations on University Property or as part of a University-Affiliated Activity. The ORP will provide oversight of established policies and procedures related to UA operations.  The ORP will identify the UA Compliance Course required by this Policy and keep records of all training/certification completed as required by federal, state, and local laws as well as this Policy. 

UA Operations Manager: The University shall designate an individual to serve as the UA Operations Manager. The UA Operations Manager shall be responsible for and have authority for approval of all UA Operations conducted at or by the University. The UA Operations Manager shall report to the Associate Vice President for Research, Director, ORP, on matters related to UA operations, and will regularly consult with the Assistant Vice President for Police and Public Safety.

  1. Develop and maintain the University’s UA Operations Manual.  
  2. Promote UA operations in support of the University mission that are safe, effective, and efficient.
  3. Ensure that University faculty, staff, and students participating in University UA operations comply with federal, state and local laws, applicable waivers, authorizations or letters of agreement, and this Policy.
  4. Serve as the University’s primary point of contact with the FAA for issues relating to use of UA on University Property or as part of University-Affiliated Activity.
  5. Ensure compliance with FAA/NTSB reporting requirements.
  6. Maintain all required records.


The University has the right to immediately terminate the operation of a UA if it interferes with campus operations, poses hazards to any person or university facilities, equipment, or other property, or has not received the proper approvals as required by federal, state, and local laws as well as this PSU Policy.  Failure to comply with this Policy, the standards set forth in the University’s UA Operations Manual, a UA approved flight plan, or regional, state, or federal law may result in a decision of non-compliance. Non-compliance can lead to the prescription of remediation and/or sanctions, up to and including revocation of the privilege to fly a UA under the auspices of the University or on University Property.  Suspected non-compliance shall be handled by the UA Operations Manager and the ORP as described in the applicable standard operating procedures. 


For questions, additional detail, or to request changes to this policy, please contact Assistant Vice-President for Police and Public Safety or the Associate Vice President for Research and Director of the Office for Research Protections.


AD53 - Privacy Statement

SY04 - Employee Accidents - Reporting and Investigation

SY05 - Persons, Other Than Students or Employees, Who Are Injured or Become Ill on University Property

Effective Date: September 2, 2015

Date Approved: September 1, 2015

Date Published: September 2, 2015

Most Recent Changes:

  • May 23, 2018 - Policy rewritten; sections added: Requirements for all Operations of UA, Exceptions, Responsibilities, and Noncompliance. Co-steward added: Associate Vice President for Research, Director of the Office for Research Protections.
  • September 1, 2015 - The Policy and Use of an Unmanned Aircraft sections have been revised to clarify the point that all uses of UA for all University purposes must be done in accordance with the FAA guidelines.

Revision History (and effective dates):

  • October 23, 2014 - New policy.