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Unmanned aircraft systems

Unmanned aircraft systems, or drones, are an integral part of a variety of research, educational and operational activities at the University of Michigan. Below is information on U-M's policy regarding drone flights and the process for obtaining permission to fly them, whether on or off U-M property, including the UM-Flint and UM-Dearborn campuses. In addition to reviewing proposed drone operations for the safety of persons on the ground, this oversight process includes assessments of airspace issues and notices to FAA Air Traffic Control facilities in order to avoid interference with piloted flights. Students, faculty and staff seeking to fly drones in any airspace—on or off campus—are advised to comply with the requirements of the Federal Aviation Administration.

M-Air, an outdoor fly lab for testing autonomous aerial vehicles under safe, controlled conditions, is scheduled to open in fall 2017.

Read a full version of the University of Michigan's Policy on the Operation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems

AUTONOMOUS SYSTEMS COMMITTEE REVIEW REQUIRED FOR DRONE USE

The University of Michigan (U-M) supports the safe and responsible use of unmanned aircraft systems ("UAS," also known as unmanned aerial vehicles or drones) in the course of research and educational activities and other endeavors in the pursuit of the U-M mission. U-M has established the faculty-led Institutional Autonomous Systems Committee (IASC) to provide a review and approval mechanism for drones operated by anyone on U-M property, and by U-M faculty, students and staff when engaged in U-M activities off of U-M property.

Outdoors on U-M Property

Ann Arbor Campus
Outdoor use of UAS by anyone from, on, or over U-M Ann Arbor campus property is generally prohibited by Article XV of the Regents’ Ordinance, unless a waiver is granted or the use is otherwise exempted from that Article under Section 5. The process for obtaining a waiver is initiated through submission of an application to the IASC. After review of the application and any supplemental information provided or requested, the IASC will issue its recommendation to the Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer (EVP-CFO) (or designee(s)), who can either accept or reject the IASC's recommendation. If the EVP-CFO (or designee(s)) issues a waiver, it will be valid for a specific use and time period. If the EVP-CFO (or designee(s)) declines to issue a waiver, the use will be prohibited.

Dearborn and Flint Campuses

Outdoor use of UAS by anyone from, on, or over UM-Dearborn and UM-Flint campus property is only permitted through written permission granted by the Chancellor of that campus or designee(s). The process for obtaining this permission is initiated through submission of an application to the IASC.

After review of the application and any supplemental information provided or requested, the IASC will issue its recommendation to the chancellor (or designee(s)), who can either accept or reject the IASC’s recommendation. If the chancellor (or designee(s)) grants permission, it will be valid for a specific use and time period. If the chancellor (or designee(s)) declines to grant permission, the use will be prohibited.

Other U-M Properties

Operation of a UAS by anyone on other U-M properties, such as at the Biological Station in Pellston, MI; at Stinchfield Woods in Pinckney, MI; or at Camp Davis in Jackson, WY; is prohibited unless the use is approved by the IASC. The process for obtaining approval is initiated through submission of an application to the IASC, along with written permission from the Operating Site Property Manager. After review of the application and any supplemental information provided or requested, the IASC will either approve or deny the requested permission. If the IASC grants permission, it will be valid for a specific use and time period. If the IASC denies the request, the use will be prohibited.

Indoors on U-M Property

Indoor use of a drone on U-M property does not require an application or waiver, but may only occur in a University space or building that has established policies and procedures to permit the safe operation of drones, and only with permission from the building manager. Building managers should refer to the Indoor Operation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems Guideline issued by EHS for assistance in setting policies and procedures for their location. The IASC reserves the right to review U-M building policies on drone use for adequacy.

Off U-M Property

If a drone is to be operated off U-M property by U-M faculty, staff, or students in connection with a UM-sanctioned activity, this use must be approved by the IASC through the application process. The committee will not consider an application until written permission from the Operating Site Property Owner and/or manager is obtained and submitted to the IASC. After review of the application and any supplemental information provided or requested, the IASC will either approve or deny the requested permission. If the IASC grants permission, it will be valid for a specific use and time period. If the IASC denies the request, the use will be prohibited.

The IASC does not have authority with respect to off-property uses by those unaffiliated with U-M, or by U-M community members for personal uses or other uses unconnected with any U-M activities.

Additional Requirements

FAA AUTHORIZATIONS

A rendering of the eastward-looking view of M-Air, a netted facility for
safely testing drones outside. Construction will begin in August 2017 at the
corner of Hayward and Draper on the University of Michigan's North Campus.
Image credit: Architect and engineering firm Harley Ellis Devereaux

All University faculty, staff, students and visitors who intend to operate UAS outdoors under this policy must, as a condition of approval under this policy, demonstrate compliance with at least one of the following: (1) 14 CFR Part 107 (Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems); (2) the University's (or other) Grant of Exemption pursuant to Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012; or (3) Section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which covers educational or hobbyist use. All University faculty, staff, students and visitors operating UAS must comply with all applicable Federal Aviation Administration regulations, as well as other federal, state and local laws.

 

U-M UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS OUTDOOR FLIGHT OPERATIONS MANUAL

All U-M faculty, staff, students and visitors who intend to operate UAS outdoors under this policy must abide by the University of Michigan Unmanned Aircraft Systems Outdoor Flight Operations Manual ("U-M Flight Manual"), which addresses the qualification of personnel, training, validation and pre-flight procedures, situational awareness, as well as flight logs and reporting requirements. The UAS operator should also have access to and be familiar with the manufacturer's instructions (or Pilot's Operating Handbook) for the specific UAS model being used. In the event of a discrepancy between the U-M Flight Manual and the requirements of federal law (as discussed above), the requirements of federal law will take precedence and must be followed.

PENALTIES FOR UNSAFE OR UNAUTHORIZED USE OF UAS

Penalties for unsafe or unauthorized use of UAS by faculty, students, staff or visitors to the U-M Ann Arbor campus may include the criminal and/or civil penalties described in Article XV of the Regents’ Ordinance. Penalties for unsafe or unauthorized use of UAS on the UM-Dearborn or UM-Flint campuses, or on other U-M property, may include criminal and/or civil penalties under other applicable law. In addition, in either case, individuals may also be subject to discipline under other applicable institutional policies. Finally, the IASC can recommend loss of flying privileges under this policy for a year upon the first transgression, and a permanent loss of flying privileges upon a repeat transgression.

Questions?

If you have any further questions, please contact IASC.Review@umich.edu.