CSU Policy: Aircraft on University Property/Unmanned Aircraft Systems (Drones)

Policy Title: Aircraft on University Property/Unmanned Aircraft Systems (Drones) Category: Administration
Owner: Vice President for University Operations Policy ID#: 5-6030-014
Risk Management & Insurance
Web: https://rmi.colostate.edu
Phone: 970-491-6745

Also Contact:
Facilities Management-Dispatch
Web: https://www.fm.colostate.edu/
Email: fac_pg_shared_dispatch@mail.colostate.edu
Phone: (970) 491-0077
Original Effective Date: 4/1/1999
Last Revision: 3/13/2020
Print Version: Click Here to Print
Attachments to this Policy:


Colorado State University must comply with federal and state laws and FAA regulations regarding aircraft, including unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). Inherent risks in the operation of such equipment necessitate proper safety practices, insurance protections, and requisite oversight and authority for the operation of UAS on CSU property, at CSU-sponsored events, or offsite in support of CSU business, research and teaching activities.


This policy applies to the operation of all aircraft, including unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and model aircraft, on or above University property, by persons including, but not limited to, CSU employees (including faculty, administrative professionals, state classified personnel, volunteers, and all other employees), students, persons acting under the direction and control of the University, and visitors. The policy also applies to the operation of UAS on or above non-University property, in support of CSU-sponsored or -sanctioned activities.

Emergency landings and landings for emergency support (e.g. Flight for Life) are not governed by this policy.


This policy does not apply to public operations of aircraft by law enforcement officers and emergency services agencies.


Aircraft: Any vehicle, machine or device capable of being introduced into flight, including, but not limited to, fixed wing airplanes, gliders, ultra-lights, helicopters, lighter-than-air ships such as blimps and hot air balloons, unmanned aerial vehicles (also known as UAVs, unmanned aircraft systems or UAS, or drones), tethered balloons and rockets.

Campus or University Property: Land and buildings owned or controlled by the University, including property leased by or on behalf of the University or licensed for the University’s use.

Civil Operations: Any UAS operation that is not a “public operation” (as defined below) is a civil operation. All UAS operations for commercial purposes, including for University business, teaching and research (with some exceptions noted in this policy), are civil operations.

COA: Certificate of Waiver or Authorization. Pursuant to FAA regulations, the COA is an authorization issued by the Air Traffic Organization to a public operator for a specific UAS activity. With the issuance of Part 107 (see below), COAs are no longer required for most small UAS civil operations.

Non-owned UAS: A UAS that is operated as part of a university-sanctioned activity but is not owned by the University.

Part 107: FAA Final Rule on Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS), 14 CFR Part 107 (the “small UAS Rule”). This rule governs civil/commercial operations of small UAS (sUAS, those less than 55 lbs., total weight including the aircraft) by a Remote Pilot in Command or under the direct supervision of a certified Remote Pilot. For purposes of this policy, all UAS operations at CSU are governed by Part 107 unless they are “public operations” conducted under a Section 333 exemption and COA (below). A few examples of operations that may be conducted under Part 107 include (but are not limited to):

  • Flying a UAS over crops to inspect them;
  • Flying a UAS over a CSU construction site to inspect it;
  • Flying a UAS for a research project, other than aeronautical research or biological or geological resource management;
  • Flying a UAS in connection with a class assignment.
  • Flying a UAS as part of CSU marketing activities.

Section 333 Exemption: FAA exemption from certain approval requirements based on Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (FMRA), which grants the Secretary of Transportation the authority to determine whether an airworthiness certificate is required for a UAS to operate safely in the National Airspace System (NAS).

Public Operations: A COA is required for “public operations,” as defined in 49 U.S.C. §§ 40102(a)(41), 40125. Examples of public operations include, but are not limited to, law enforcement, aeronautical research, firefighting, and biological or geological resource management. Public operations do not include operations for which the University earns compensation (for example, under a grant or contract).

Unmanned Aircraft System(s) (UAS): A UAS consists of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and the components necessary to operate and control the UAV. UAS are often referred to as drones. According to the FAA, a UAS is the unmanned aircraft and all of the associated support equipment, control station, data links, telemetry, communications and navigation equipment, etc., necessary to operate the unmanned aircraft. UAS may have a variety of names including quadcopter, quadrotor, etc. FAA regulations apply to UAS regardless of size or weight. A “small UAS” (sUAS) qualifying for operation pursuant to Part 107 consists of a small unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds including everything that is onboard and the equipment necessary for the safe and efficient operation of that aircraft.


Aircraft serve as important assets to the success of university programs. In particular, the use of unmanned aircraft systems can make significant contributions to research and academic activities of the University in a variety of disciplines. Additionally, aerial photography with UAS can potentially assist in land management, athletics, law enforcement and other support functions.

However, the operation of aircraft, including UAS, poses safety hazards to persons and property and can result in legal liability; therefore, such uses must be carried out only by those with proper training and authority. Colorado State University will establish procedures to ensure compliance with all legal obligations and to help reduce risks to safety, security and privacy. Anyone operating (or assisting in operating) an aircraft that takes off from or lands on university property, or on other property for university-sanctioned activities, wherever situated, must comply with this policy. Launching or landing aircraft on university property creates risks to the institution and community, for several reasons:

  • The main campus is at the core of the Fort Collins population area and the population and building density of the main campus is high, creating safety risks to persons and property;
  • Aircraft takeoff and landings and the noise associated with them generally create a distraction and have the potential to interfere with instruction and research on all university campuses;
  • Many aircraft require licenses that CSU itself does not possess;
  • Aircraft may pose other unacceptable risks to the community such as invasion of privacy, unauthorized solicitations, and distracted driving; and
  • It is extremely difficult to comply with the some of the restrictions of Part 107, especially not to fly over people, on CSU campuses


Authorization to Operate an Aircraft (including UAS)

  1. All members of the university community are personally responsible for complying with FAA regulations, state and federal laws, and university policies with respect to the operation of an aircraft, whether the use is personal, recreational, or for university business or research.
  2.  Any university employee or student wishing to operate a sUAS as part of their university employment or as part of a university program must do so as a civil operation under Part 107. All UAS operations must be approved in advance by RMI, CSU Drone Center and Facilities Management. This includes indoor flights.
  3. The CSU Drone Center assists university students, staff and faculty with navigation of current FAA rules and regulations. Please contact the CSU Drone Center for more information.
  4. For all sUAS operations under Part 107: 
    1. Authorization to fly will be given after completion of all required insurance documentation and proof of compliance with Part 107 pre-flight requirements (consisting primarily of sUAS certification after FAA examination, and filing a proper application/approval request form and flight plan) by the person or persons operating the flight controls.
    2. Under some circumstances, a person may be allowed to operate sUAS flight controls without FAA certification, under the direct supervision of a certified pilot and subject to immediate takeover of flight controls by the certified pilot.
    3. Operators must comply with all Part 107 requirements and restrictions, as listed in the FAA’s Summary of Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule (Part 107), except to the extent that a waiver is granted by the FAA for any of these restrictions. Not all restrictions can be waived, but waivers may be requested for:
      1. Operation from a moving vehicle or aircraft (§ 107.25)*
      2. Daylight operation (§ 107.29)
      3. Visual line of sight aircraft operation (§ 107.31)*
      4. Visual observer (§ 107.33)
      5. Operation of multiple small unmanned aircraft systems (§ 107.35)
      6. Yielding the right of way (§ 107.37(a))
      7. Operation over people (§ 107.39)
      8. Operation in certain airspace (§ 107.41)
      9. Operating limitations for small unmanned aircraft (§ 107.51)

      *No waiver of this provision will be issued to allow the carriage of property of another by aircraft for compensation or hire.

      The CSU Drone Center holds several certificates of waiver for some of these operations, notably flight at night and flight beyond visual line of sight. 

  5. For UAS use in foreign countries, and when foreign nationals are involved in any university activity using UAS, the Office of General Counsel (OGC) and the Export Control Officer (ECO) will assist in determining legal requirements and verifying that requirements have been met.
  6. Any university employee, student, or unit purchasing a UAS (or the parts to assemble a UAS) or UAS services with university funds, or funds being disbursed through a university account, including grant funds, must contact the CSU Drone Center in order to assess the University’s ability to obtain a waiver, other necessary FAA exemptions, or meet other applicable compliance requirements and obtain the appropriate insurance.
  7. Recreational or hobbyist use of UAS on university property, not for a university-sponsored academic, research, or business purpose, is not permitted except for registered student organization use as discussed below. On occasion, however, a UAS may be used in connection with a course or project, where the operator is a student under the supervision of an instructor. In such cases, the use may qualify as hobbyist/recreational use and must comply with applicable FAA regulations for such use. Pursuant to FAA guidance issued May 4, 2016, faculty members may assist students with such uses, provided that:
    1. No compensation is received by anyone in connection with the flight operation;
    2. The student primarily retains operational control, the faculty member has all required FAA certifications and permissions to operate the UAS, and the faculty member’s manipulation of the aircraft is incidental and secondary to the student’s (e.g., the faculty member steps in to regain control in the event the student begins to lose control, to terminate the flight, etc.);
    3. The student is not operating the UAS primarily for the benefit of, or as a substitute for, the faculty member when the faculty member does not have a Certificate of Authorization to operate the UAS; and
    4.  The primary purpose of the course is not UAS flight instruction; this is only one part of the curriculum.
  8. Registered student organizations (RSOs) in good standing may obtain university approval for operations of a UAS on university property. The UAS must be properly registered with the FAA and be labeled with the assigned UAS registration number.  Operation of the UAS must comply with law at all times.  RSOs wishing to fly a UAS on CSU property must comply with this policy. The restrictions and requirements for operation as set forth below will apply.
Restrictions and Requirements for Operation
  1. In operating a UAS for purposes of recording or transmitting visual images, operators must take all reasonable measures to avoid observing or recording in areas normally considered private. Use of UAS must comply with any other applicable university policies. Use of UAS for video or electronic surveillance must comply with the CSU Policy on Electronic Surveillance Systems. All uses of UAS must comply with the following:
    1. Do not use a UAS to monitor or record areas where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy in accordance with accepted social norms and state and local laws regarding privacy. These areas include, but are not limited to, the interior of any building or anything seen through a building window unless approved in advance. Flight/photography adjacent to campus residential facilities, apartments, and residence halls is only permitted when approved in advance.
    2. Do not operate or participate in the use of a UAS while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or in a reckless or careless manner.
    3. A UAS shall not be operated directly over persons who are non-participants in the flight operations unless express permission has been obtained from the FAA, the CSU Drone Center and RMI.
    4. Do not fly a UAS beyond line of sight without an FAA waiver
  2. Operation of a non-owned UAS requires approval from RMI. All non-owned UAS operators must provide liability insurance in the type and amount prescribed by RMI, along with proof of FAA certification.
  3. Requests to operate aircraft on university property will be reviewed based on the following criteria:
    1. Demonstrated benefit to a specific university program or approved activity;
    2. Justification of need to take off or land on campus as opposed to local aircraft support facilities;
    3. The provided flight plan and assurance the operation will be conducted safely within FAA regulations and CSU policies;
    4. Evidence that the operator(s) have all required licenses, permits and clearances to operate the aircraft as proposed;
    5. Evidence that appropriate insurance coverage is in place, in acceptable types and amounts, proof of which has been provided to RMI; and
    6. Any other factor deemed pertinent by Facilities Management, RMI, and/or the CSU Drone Center
  4. Full details of the request to take off from or land on university property must be received via the drone approval request form not less than 14 days prior to the requested takeoff, flight or landing.
  5. Landing approvals will include a specific set of requirements of engaging landing support (either services or equipment) from the University or other sources, where applicable. Where university services or equipment are involved, the requesting party will be required to reimburse direct costs.

Place and Time of Flights; Scheduling

The University will designate areas where flight operations are permitted when scheduled and approved in advance. Availability of designated areas will vary according to the nature and purpose of the flight, priority, environmental conditions, and other factors. In general, when scheduling use of university property for UAS operation, university research and teaching uses will take first priority, research and associated uses by individuals or entities with an agreement with the University that involves UAS operation will be given second priority, registered student organization use by members of that organization will be given third priority and all other uses scheduled thereafter. Scheduling requests should be sent to the Facilities Management Scheduling Office, 491-0056, email fac_facilitiesscheduling@mail.colostate.edu. A minimum of two weeks’ advance notice is required.


Any violations of this policy will subject the responsible persons to disciplinary action in accordance with applicable university policies and procedures, which may include actions up to and including termination from the University.

Unauthorized or improper use of a UAS may also subject the responsible persons to civil or criminal liability. Fines or damages incurred by individuals or units for legal violations will not be paid by Colorado State University and will be the responsibility of those persons involved.


Federal Aviation Administration:


Office of Risk Management & Insurance, Drone Use at CSU (includes Drone Approval Request Form)

FAQs for this Policy: http://policylibrary.colostate.edu/attachments/746.UAS Policy FAQs.pdf

CSU Drone Center

FAA Drone Zone


Effective April, 1999

Revision approved by Lynn Johnson, Vice President for University Operations on September 6, 2016

Revision approved by Lynn Johnson, Vice President for University Operations on March 13, 2020


Print Version: Click Here to Print

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