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.
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.
The minimum requirements for approval of outdoor use of drones 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 are the following:
- Obtain an FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot Certification. Prior to submitting the IASC application the remote pilot-in-command (rPIC) should have their FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot Certification (issued after passing the FAA Part 107 Knowledge Test).
- Submit a fully completed, current version of the IASC application (see link below) at least three weeks (21 calendar days) ahead of your planned flight date. Incomplete applications will be returned, increasing the approval timeline.
- Undergo a successful validation flight. This is a validation of flight proficiency by a 3rd party, with report sent to the committee. Note: The IASC application should be submitted to the IASC prior to the validation flight occurring. Information on how to arrange for a validation flight can be obtained by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Outdoors on U-M Property
Outdoor use of UAS by anyone from, on, or over the U-M Ann Arbor, Dearborn, or Flint campuses or other U-M property is generally prohibited, unless permitted through a waiver of Regents Ordinance Article XVI or 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, or the respective Chancellor or designee, who can either accept or reject the IASC’s recommendation. If the EVP-CFO, Chancellor, or designee issues a waiver, it will be valid for a specific use and time period. If the EVP-CFO, Chancellor, or designee declines to issue a waiver, 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.
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 14 CFR Part 107 (Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems). 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.
References and Resources
- U-M Policy on the Operation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems
- Application for Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) On or Off U-M Properties
- IASC UAS Flight Log Report Form
- U-M Unmanned Aircraft Systems Outdoor Flight Operations Manual
- FAA on Unmanned Aircraft Systems and Part 107 (Small UAS Rule)