University of Minnesota  Administrative Policy

Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (Drones)

Policy Statement

The University is committed to teaching, research, and outreach activities that contribute to the delivery of its land grant mission.  It is also committed to ensuring the safety of its students, faculty, staff, and visitors. There are a variety of applications where Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), commonly referred to as drones, are directly related to mission delivery. This policy exists to ensure safe and proper operation of UAS for the benefit of people and University property.  The conditions outlined here are in addition to any Federal or State requirements.

Use of UAS on University Property and in Airspace over University Property


Individuals may operate UAS in airspace over University property only after the University’s UAS safety board (UASSB) has reviewed a program plan (see Forms/Instructions below). This board’s focus is the safety of people or property and ensuring awareness of planned UAS activity. The board does not have authority over the content of the teaching, research, or outreach program. Operation of a UAS inside an enclosed classroom or research lab is permitted without a program plan or prior approval.

Operation of UAS outdoors is also governed by Federal aviation regulations and Minnesota state statutes.

Use for Mission-Related Activities and Operations

UAS used for mission-related activities (teaching, research, or outreach) is permitted, provided it does not interfere with or interrupt the operations of the University and complies with federal and state law. In addition, indoor use of UAS in public spaces must be limited to locations and times where the use will not interfere with student, faculty, and staff use of facilities. UAS operators planning to launch, land, or fly a UAS on University property or in airspace over University property must submit a program plan to the UASSB. The plan will be reviewed, and additional provisions may be required to ensure safety of people and property.

Student organizations affiliated with an academic program who wish to use UAS on University property or in airspace over University property must also submit a request for review. The UASSB will consider such requests on a case-by-case basis. Requests must include a program plan.

UAS operators planning to use UAS in arenas or large venues (e.g. Northrop, McNamara Alumni Center) must also submit a program plan to the UASSB.

UAS are also permitted for uses related to facility maintenance with approval from the UASSB.

In all cases, the program plan must be submitted at least five business days prior to commencement of permitted activities

Use for Public Relations, Communications, or Commercial Purposes

UAS operators requesting use of UAS on University property or in airspace over University property for public relations, communications, or commercial reasons on behalf of the University must submit a request to the UASSB a minimum of five business days prior to use. The request will be reviewed and approved or denied by University Relations and University Services, as well as the responsible law enforcement agency on system campuses. Commercial operators must have completed all required federal, state, and local registration and/or licensure requirements.

Use for Public Safety

Nothing in this policy prohibits use for public safety purposes that are in alignment with federal or state law and approved by the Chief of the responsible law enforcement agency for each campus.

Restrictions on Use

In compliance with FAA regulations, there are restrictions on UAS use in relation to airports, helipads, and major stadiums. University properties impacted by these regulations are outlined in Appendix A: Restrictions by Proximity and Property Impacted.

Outdoor use of UAS for any purpose is prohibited three hours prior, during, and three hours following all main bowl events at TCF Bank Stadium on the Twin Cities campus and Malosky Stadium on the Duluth campus. This prohibition is broader than FAA regulation, and applies to all East Bank, West Bank, Saint Paul, and Duluth campus property and airspace.

Use Off University Property

University students, faculty, or staff who use UAS off university property for teaching, research, or outreach activities do not need UASSB approval, but must comply with all applicable laws in force where the UAS is operated.

UAS exceeding 100 pounds (craft, fuel, fluids, and payload) used outside the state of Minnesota are subject to insurance restrictions. Contact Risk Management for assistance.

Compliance with Laws, Regulations, and University Policy

Students, faculty, staff, volunteers, and visitors must comply with all laws, licensing, certification, and regulations governing UAS, including but not restricted to those issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Minnesota Department of Transportation (MN/DOT), and other government agencies. All UAS, regardless of ownership, must be registered with the FAA and MN/DOT Office of Aeronautics and display the registration number as required by law.  Certain operations may require a Public Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) from the FAA. The University holds a blanket COA, questions about which can be directed to Research Integrity and Compliance (RIC).

The University may, at its discretion, suspend any UAS activity deemed as dangerous, interfering with, or interrupting the operations of the University. Should a discrepancy between University policy and FAA regulations exist, the more restrictive will govern.

Prohibited Use

Use of UAS for all other purposes, including recreation, is prohibited on University property and in airspace over University property.

Student organizations that are not affiliated with an academic program are not considered mission-related, and are prohibited from operating UAS on university property or in airspace over University property regardless of the organization’s registration status.

Reason for Policy

This policy and its associated forms exist to implement Board of Regents Policy: Health and Safety (PDF), to reduce the risk to people and property, and to provide avenues for students, faculty, and staff to deliver the University’s mission.


Primary ContactJeff Lessard612-624-1583[email protected]
Blanket COA questionsResearch Integrity and Compliance (RIC)612-625-3860[email protected]
UAS Use Outside of MinnesotaRisk Management612-624-5884[email protected]
Responsible Individuals
Responsible Officer Policy Owner Primary Contact
  • Police Chief
  • Police Chief
  • Jeff Lessard
    Director of the Public Safety Emergency Communication Center


Academic Program

A major or minor offered by a college and listed in the University’s catalogs.

Commercial Use

Any commercial use in connection with a business, including selling photos or videos taken from a UAS, using UAS to provide contract services (such as industrial equipment or factory inspection, mapping or surveys), or using UAS to provide professional services (such as security or telecommunications).

Main Bowl Event

Any event held in the primary seating area of a sporting arena.

Mission-Related Activities

Activities directly related to a faculty or staff member’s teaching, research, or outreach work. For students, these are activities directly related to coursework in an enrolled class or research conducted for credit.

Program Plan

Document submitted for review that specifies when, where, and for what purpose a UAS will be flown on University property or in University airspace.


Public Safety Emergency Communications Center, which is the systemwide dispatch and monitoring center for the University.

Teaching, Research, or Outreach Activities

The work of University students, faculty, or staff which directly delivers the institution’s mission, as defined by the Board of Regents. Outreach, also referred to as public engagement, is the partnership of university knowledge and resources with those of the public and private sectors to enrich scholarship, research, and creative activity; enhance curriculum, teaching and learning; prepare educated, engaged citizens; strengthen democratic values and civic responsibility; address critical societal issues; and contribute to the public good.

UAS Operator

Person(s) in direct control and command of a UAS.

Unmanned Aircraft (UA)

The flying portion of an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS), flown by a pilot via a ground control system, or autonomously through use of an on-board computer, communication links and any additional equipment that is necessary for the UA to operate safely. (The University recognizes that the term “unmanned” is not gender inclusive, but has adopted the term for clarity and in alignment with federal regulations. As this terminology evolves in statute, this policy will be revised.)

Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS)

An unmanned aircraft (UA) and all of the associated support equipment, control station, data links, telemetry, communications and navigation equipment, etc., necessary to operate the unmanned aircraft.

UAS Safety Board (UASSB)

Systemwide body charged with reviewing program plans for safety and/or awareness considerations. The UASSB is comprised of representatives from emergency management (chair), academic affairs, research, university services administration, university relations, and the responsible law enforcement agency for the campus in question.


UAS Operators

Comply with federal, state, and University registration, marking, licensing, certification, and operational laws and requirements. Submit UAS Program Plan for approval prior to use.

UAS Safety Board

Reviewing program plans for safety and/or awareness considerations. Define additional safety requirements as needed for individual plans. Forward approved plans to PSECC.


Receive and process UAS Program Plans. Notify relevant parties of approved UAS operations.

Related Information

There is no related information associated with this policy.



November 2016 - New Policy. 1. Specifies when and if unmanned aircraft systems can be used on campus. 2. Identifies the physical locations where flight if allowed if permitted by policy. 3. Identifies when use may be subject to insurance restrictions.