5,030: Policy on Use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Drones

Revised: April 2016

I. Purpose

Unmanned aerial vehicles (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, UAV regulation and compliance is emerging and complex. This policy therefore defines the requirements for the purchase, registration, and use of UAVs at and/or in association with the University.

II. Scope

This policy applies to:

A. 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 UAVs in any location as part of their employment with the university or as part of any university-related research or activity;
B. The operation by any person or entity of UAVs on or above the University Campus and/or any Other University Property, whether for recreational or non-recreational purposes; and
C. The purchase of UAVs with funding through the University, including without limitation university accounts, grants, or University of Nevada, Reno Foundation accounts.

III. Definitions

As used in this policy, the following definitions apply:

A. Aircraft - means any contrivance invented, used, intended to be used, or designed to navigate, or fly, in the air.
B. Certificate of Authorization (COA) - means an authorization issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approving a specific UAV activity. The COA may impose conditions or limitations on the UAV activity to ensure the UAV can operate safely with other airspace users.
C. NAASIC - means the University's Nevada Advanced Autonomous Systems Innovation Center.
D. Other University Property - means all real property owned by, leased by, or otherwise subject to the control of the Board of Regents of the Nevada System of Higher Education on behalf of the University of Nevada, Reno, excluding that property including in the definition of University Campus.
E. University Campus - means all real property that is owned by, leased by, or otherwise subject to the control of the Board of Regents of the Nevada System of Higher Education on behalf of the University of Nevada, Reno, and designated primarily for one or more of the following uses: administering or carrying out the University's education mission, athletics activities, or student housing.
F. Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) - means the UAV together with all of the associated support equipment, control station, data links, telemetry, communications and navigation equipment, etc., necessary to operate the UAV.
G. Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) or Unmanned Aircraft (UA) - mean an aircraft that is operated without the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the aircraft. Examples include but are not limited to "drones", airplanes, helicopters, model aircraft, rockets, blimps and other unspecified vehicles flown by radio control, computer control, free flight, or control line.

IV. Prohibition Against the Outdoor Operation of UAVs on the University Campus

The outdoor operation of UAVs on the University Campus poses inherent health, security, and privacy risks to the University community, and would violate FAA restrictions. Accordingly, no UAVs may be operated outdoors on or above the University Campus at any time. This prohibitions applies to the outdoor operation of UAVs for any purpose, including but not limited to recreational, hobby, commercial, research, and educational purposes.

V. Indoor Operation of UAVs on the University Campus

UAV operation inside buildings located on the University Campus, including academic and research buildings, residence halls, and/or parking garages, is not regulated by the FAA. Operation inside buildings located on the University Campus is allowed when each of the following conditions have been met:

A. Operation of the UAV is part of: (i) an academic program, class, or project; (ii) a university-related research activity, including but not limited to sponsored research; or (iii) an activity or event sponsored by a university-recognized department, unit, club, organization, or team;
B. The proposed UAV operator possesses the requisite qualifications to conduct the operation, as determined by the University, and has filed a complete Operations Plan in compliance with Section VII below;
C. The operation has received authorization to proceed from NAASIC; and
D. The operation must be conducted in compliance with any applicable university policies, guidelines, and rules, and all applicable federal, state, and local laws.

NAASIC shall create flight safety guidelines for indoor UAV operations which must be provided to the operator upon approval of the Operations Plan required under Section VII. In addition to the requirements of Section V(D) above, all indoor operations on the University Campus must comply with the guidelines developed by NAASIC.

VI. Operation of UAVs at Locations Other Than on the University Campus

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) currently prohibits the outdoor operation of UAVs flown for commercial or non-hobby purposes without a FAA Certificate of Authorization (COA). This specifically includes, but is not limited to, the use of UAVs for research, educational, and marketing purposes. Thus, in order to operate UAVs for research, educational, or other university-related purposes, a COA must first be applied for and granted by the FAA authorizing that operation. Note that COAs are granted to the University, not to individuals.

Because of the potential legal and risk management issues involved in managing a COA, faculty, staff, and students at the University who wish to pursue a COA application must consult with and coordinate through NAASIC on the application process. The Vice President for Research and Innovation (or designee) has final approval authority and oversight over all matters involving COAs issued to the University.

Subject to the foregoing, UAV operation, whether indoor or outdoor, at locations other than the University Campus, including but not limited to operations conducted at, on, or above Other University Property, is allowed when each of the following conditions have been met:

A. Operation of the UAV is part of: (i) an academic program, class, or project; (ii) a university-related research activity, including but not limited to sponsored research; or (iii) an activity or event sponsored by a university-recognized department, unit, club, organization, or team;
B. The proposed UAV operator possesses the requisite qualifications to conduct the operation, as determined by the University, and has filed a complete Operations Plan in compliance with Section VII below;
C. The operation has received authorization to proceed from NAASIC;
D. The FAA has granted a COA authorizing the flight;
E. The proposed UAV operator has obtained all necessary permission from the property owner(s) of the location at which the operation will be conducted; and
F. The operation must be conducted in compliance with any applicable university policies, guidelines, and rules, and all applicable federal, state, and local laws, including but not limited to any conditions imposed by the FAA under the applicable COA.

VII. Prior Submission and Approval of UAV Operations Plans

In addition to any other requirements stated above, in order to receive university authorization to conduct any UAV operation permitted under this policy, the proposed operator shall file an Operations Plan with and receive approval of the Operation Plan by NAASIC.

NAASIC shall create a template Operations Plan which must be completed by the proposed UAV operator and include the following information related to the proposed UAV operation:

A. Specific identification of the equipment to be used (include registration number and information about the UAV control systems, communication systems, etc.);
B. Date(s) and approximate time of the operation;
C. Location(s) of the operation;
D. Identity of and contact information for the operator;
E. Purpose(s) of the operation;
F. All forms of data (including imagery) to be collected as a result of the operation;
G. Current status of any required registrations, licenses or permissions (including COAs), and insurance;
H. Provisions for security of the equipment, both during and outside of operation, and of any sensitive data collected; and
I. Such additional information as reasonably necessary to permit NAASIC to fully understand and evaluate the proposed operation.

The fully completed Operations Plan must be submitted at least 48 hours 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 Vice President for Research and Innovation (or designee) has final authority to approve or deny any Operations Plan.

VIII. Purchasing, Registration, and Maintenance of University-Owned UAVs

A. Purchasing and Registration.

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

University-owned UAVs 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."

The requirements and steps for registering UAVs can vary based upon various factors, including but not limited to whether the UAV is purchased from a foreign manufacturer. Accordingly, all University employees, students, and units purchasing a UAV (or the parts to assemble a UAV) with university funds or funds being disbursed through a university account, grant, or University of Nevada, Reno Foundation account, are highly encouraged to contact and consult with NAASIC prior to making such purchase.

B. Storage, Maintenance, and Insurance.

The physical storage, maintenance, and flight-readiness preparation of university-owned UAVs shall be conducted by and the responsibility of the department or unit that purchased the UAV; provided that if the UAV is purchased using grant funds, the Principal Investigator for such grant shall have primary responsibility. Any university-owned UAVs and related support equipment must be stored in appropriate secure facilities. NAASIC shall develop template flight and maintenance logs [insert link], which shall be kept by the responsible department, unit, and/or PI for each university-owned UAV.

Damage to or loss of UAVs is not covered under the University's self-insurance and thus must be separately insured. The department, unit, and/or PI that purchased the UAV shall be responsible for the costs of insuring the UAV. Procurement of insurance shall be through BCN Risk Management.

IX. Enforcement and Penalties

If anyone observes a violation of this policy, he or she 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.

Violation of this policy may result in disciplinary action:

A. Student violations will be handled in accordance with the Student Code of Conduct, and may include sanctions up to and including expulsion;
B. Faculty violations will be handled in accordance with Chapter 6 of the NSHE Code, and may include disciplinary sanctions up to and including termination;
C. 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;
D. 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.