5,030: Policy on Use of Uncrewed Aircraft Systems (UASs) and Drones

Revised: January 2024

I. Purpose

Uncrewed aircraft systems (a.k.a. “drones”) have become increasingly popular, and the development and use of this technology has broad utility in the pursuit of the University’s research, education, and other missions. At the same time, UAS regulation and compliance is emerging and complex. This policy defines the requirements for the purchase, registration, and use of UAS at and/or in association with the University.

II. Scope

This policy applies to:

  1. All members of the University of Nevada, Reno community, including but not limited to employees, units, students, clubs, organizations and other University-related individuals, operating UAS in any location as part of their University employment or as part of any University-related program, research, instruction or activity;
  2. The operation by any person or entity of UAS on or above any University campus and/or any other property owned by, leased by, or otherwise subject to the control of the University, whether indoors or outdoors, and whether for personal, recreational, commercial, research, instruction or any other purpose; and
  3. The purchase of UAS with funding through the University, including without limitation University accounts, grants, or University of Nevada, Reno Foundation accounts.

III. Policy

UAS may not be flown in or above University property by any party without written approval from the Vice President for Research and Innovation (VPRI).

UAS may not be flown by University faculty, staff or students as part of their University employment or as part of any University-related program, research or activity without prior written approval from the VPRI. This requirement applies regardless of whether operations are on or above University property.

In all cases, approved flights must comply with all local, state, and federal regulations and requirements regarding uncrewed aircraft. It is the sole responsibility of the party seeing approval for flight operations to ensure that their proposed flight complies with all applicable laws and regulations.

IV. Authorization

In order to receive University authorization to conduct any UAS operation permitted under this policy, the proposed operator shall file an Operations Plan with and receive approval of the Operations Plan by the VPRI. Departments and users engaged in frequent or reoccurring UAS operations may, with VPRI approval, submit a single Operations Plan covering all planned UAS operations for the semester.

The Operations Plan must be submitted by the proposed operator using the online UAS Application.

This plan must include the following (be advised that requirements may change as the FAA implements changes to its UAS-related regulations):

  1. Name of proposed operator;
  2. Email of proposed operator;
  3. Phone number of proposed operator;
  4. Date(s) and approximate time(s) of the operation;
  5. Location(s) of the operation (coordinates or a physical address);
  6. Sectional chart with annotations on the location(s) of the operation;
  7. Purpose(s) of the operation;
  8. Part 107 license number of the proposed operator;
  9. Make and model of UAS as well as the FAA UAS registration number;
  10. A screenshot of the UAS registration from the FAA website;
  11. Confirmation that the flight will meet all local, state and federal regulations and requirements;
  12. Any special permissions required for the flight, if needed;
  13. Verification that a flight plan has been filed through LAANC, if required;
  14. Provisions for security of the equipment, both during and outside of operation, and of any sensitive data to be collected;
  15. Identification of the appropriate ground safety procedures that will be in place during the flight operations;
  16. Verification that all flight operations will not fly over people and confirmation that the Operations Plan meets 14 CFR 107.100;
  17. Explanation of the level of prior training, how many hours the proposed operator/crew member(s) has flown the system and flown the system while taking pictures;
  18. Information on the level of risk mitigation for the measure that the proposed operator/crew member(s) plans on flying;
  19. If the proposed operator and crew plan to fly over roads, submit a plan to avoid flying directly over vehicles;
  20. A description of the emergency procedures that are in place for lost link with the UAS and/or engine failure during planned flights, landings and take-offs; and
  21. If the proposed operator is not a University employee, the operator shall maintain liability insurance coverages satisfactory to the University and shall name the University as additionally insured on their insurance and/or provide a written indemnification satisfactory to the University, agreeing to indemnify the University against all claims related to the operation. Submit the certificate of insurance evidencing the required coverage or the signed indemnity agreement with the Operations Plan.

The fully completed Operations Plan must be submitted at least seven (7) calendar days prior to operations. Operations Plans that are incomplete; fail to comply with applicable laws, government regulations, and other University policies and guidelines; pose an unacceptable threat to health, safety, privacy, or the environment, as determined by the University; or are judged by the University to be against the best interest of the public and/or the University, will not be approved.

The VPRI (or designee) has final authority to approve or deny any Operations Plan.

For operations on University property other than the University of Nevada, Reno at Lake Tahoe, the UAS pilot must call the University Police Services “Duty Office” line at (775) 745-6195 and notify the police officer on duty that they are about to commence the flight. Once finished, the officer on duty should be notified that the flight operations have been completed.

For operations at the University of Nevada, Reno at Lake Tahoe, the UAS pilot must call the VPRI’s office at (775) 327-2363 at least sixty (60) minutes prior to commencing the flight and within thirty (30) minutes of completing the flight.

V. Purchasing, Registration, and Maintenance of University-Owned UAS

  1. Purchasing and Registration.

    FAA regulations and Nevada law require the registration of all University-owned UAS. All employees and units who have purchased or developed UAS on behalf of the University prior to the effective date of this policy and/or purchase or develop UAS to be owned by the University after the effective date of this policy shall consult with and coordinate through the VPRI to register such UAS.

    University-owned UAS must be purchased and/or registered under the correct legal name, “Board of Regents of the Nevada System of Higher Education on behalf of the University of Nevada, Reno.”
  1. Storage and Maintenance.
    The physical storage, maintenance, and flight-readiness preparation of University-owned UAS shall be conducted by and be the responsibility of the department or unit that purchased the UAS; provided that if the UAS is purchased using grant funds, the Principal Investigator for such grant shall have primary responsibility. Any University-owned UAS and related support equipment must be stored in appropriate secure facilities.
  2. Insurance
    1. Property Insurance
      Damage to or loss of UAS in flight is not covered under the University’s property self-insurance program and thus must be separately insured. The department, unit, and/or PI that purchased the UAS shall be responsible for the costs of insuring the UAS. Procurement of insurance shall be through BCN Risk Management.
      It is recommended that UAS valued at $5,000 or greater be reported to BCN Risk Management and registered for property hull insurance coverage. The value of any added equipment should be identified and included in the total value.
    2. Liability Insurance
      UAS that are used in conjunction with any contract or that are operated outside the State of Nevada, shall be reported to BCN Risk Management and registered for liability insurance coverage prior to such use. The department, unit, and/or PI that purchased the UAS shall be responsible for the cost of the insurance.

VI. Enforcement and Penalties

If anyone observes a violation of this policy, they shall notify University Police Services. Upon notification, Police Services will either dispatch someone from that department or request law enforcement to respond to the area to notify the operator of campus policy, and ensure the activity ceases. Police Services will take whatever other enforcement actions are necessary to maintain safety, including referral of the matter for disciplinary action.
VII. Violation of this policy may result in disciplinary action:

  1. Student violations will be handled in accordance with the Student Code of Conduct, and may include sanctions up to and including expulsion;
  2. Faculty violations will be handled in accordance with Chapter 6 of the NSHE Code, and may include disciplinary sanctions up to and including termination;
  3. Staff violations will be handled in accordance with Chapter 284 of the Nevada Revised Statutes and applicable University policies, and may include discipline up to and including termination;
  4. All other individuals found to have violated this policy shall be considered trespassers and may be dealt with accordingly, which may include being removed from campus and/or receiving a written directive to remain off campus.

Additionally, violation of local, state, or federal laws and regulations may result in detainment, prosecution, and/or fines by applicable authorities.