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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 the Research Compliance Office.
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.
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.