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UPPS 04.05.14 - Unmanned Aircraft Systems (Unmanned Aircraft and Model Aircraft) Operation Policy

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (Unmanned Aircraft and Model Aircraft) Operation Policy

UPPS No. 04.05.14
Issue No. 1
Effective Date: 7/19/2016
Next Review Date: 4/01/2019 (E3Y)
Sr. Reviewer: Director, Environmental Health, Safety, and Risk Management


    1. The operation of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), including drones and model aircraft, is regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and relevant state laws. Texas State University will establish procedures required to ensure compliance with those legal obligations and to reduce risks to safety, security, and privacy.

    2. Texas State must and will comply with current and future FAA requirements and state laws. Inherent risks associated with the operation of said equipment may require additional insurance and policy considerations.

  2. SCOPE

    1. This policy applies to Texas State employees, students, and any persons operating UAS or model aircraft in any location as part of their university employment, activities, or business on or above Texas State property, including:

      1. the purchase or construction of UAS with funding through Texas State accounts, grants, or Texas State Foundation accounts; and

      2. the hiring for or contracting of any unmanned aircraft services by a Texas State representative.


    1. Property - buildings, grounds, and land that are owned or controlled by Texas State by means of leases or other formal contractual arrangements to support ongoing Texas State operations and research.

    2. Certificate of Authorization (COA) or Waiver - The FAA defines the COA as an authorization issued by the Air Traffic Organization to a public operator for a specific UAS activity.

    3. 333 Exemption - FAA exemption based on Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (FMRA) that 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.

    4. Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) - UAS are also known as or may be characterized as drones. The FAA identifies a UAS as an unmanned aircraft and all of its associated support equipment such as: the 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 regulation applies to UAS regardless of size or weight. Model aircraft are not considered by the FAA as UAS and have different regulations.

    5. Model Aircraft - The FAA considers a model aircraft that does not exceed 55 pounds to be a UAS that must be flown according to the FAA’s Model Aircraft Operations guidelines, including Registration. Model aircraft are not used for business purposes, but are used only for hobby and recreation. (Use of a UAS related to Texas State does not come under model aircraft regulations.)

    6. Nano or Pocket UAS - The FAA has not specifically addressed nano or pocket UAS (weight less than 10 grams); however, due to the potential of invading privacy or causing injury, both are included in this policy.


    1. Policy Guidelines

      1. All faculty, staff, and students are personally responsible for complying with FAA regulations, state and federal laws, and university policies.

      2. Due to federal and state restrictions limiting the purpose and use of drones, any university employee or student wishing to operate any UAS owned by the university, as part of their university employment or as part of a university program must first obtain a 333 exemption or Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) issued by the FAA. The Environmental Health, Safety and Risk Management (EHSRM) Office is the FAA account holder for COAs for Texas State, and all applications must be submitted through this office. Employees operating a UAS on behalf of Texas State must be engaged in only professional or scholarly endeavors.

      3. Any university employee, student, or unit seeking to purchase a UAS (or the parts to assemble a UAS), or UAS services with university funds or funds being disbursed through a university account or grant funds must first have approval via the UAS Request Form for the purchase from EHSRM in order to assess the university’s ability to obtain a COA or other necessary FAA exemptions to meet compliance requirements prior to approving or disapproving the request.

      4. Texas State employees must obtain the approval of EHSRM prior to using a UAS or model aircraft over university property. The request for approval must be accompanied by proof of FAA authorization or exemption and employee certification of having reviewed Texas Government Code, Title 4, Subtitle B, Chapter 423, and any other safety material provided by EHSRM.

      5. Outside constituents must obtain the approval of EHSRM prior to using a UAS or model aircraft over university property. Third parties planning to use a UAS must submit proof of FAA authorization or exemption with their request for Texas State approval. In addition, operation of a UAS by a third party or hobbyist over university property must be under a contract that holds the university harmless from any resulting claims or harm to individuals and property, as well as proof of insurance as required by EHSRM. Third parties with permission to operate on campus must have commercial general liability insurance with a minimum limit per occurrence of $1,000,000 and a minimum general aggregate of $2,000,000 and list Texas State as an additional insured as well as a certificate holder.

      6. During approved operation of a UAS for purposes of recording or transmitting visual images, operators must take all reasonable measures to avoid violations of areas normally considered private and shall be personally liable for any civil or criminal charges or penalties related to the use of the drone. See, Texas Government Code, Title 4, Subtitle B, Chapter 423, Use of Unmanned Aircraft, for potential offenses and associated fines. Violations range from a Class C misdemeanor to penalties upwards of $10,000 for a single civil violation.

      7. Use of UAS must comply with any other applicable Texas State or Texas State University System policies, as well as state and federal law. All uses of UAS must comply with the required procedures and guidelines set forth in this policy.

    2. Required Procedures and Guidelines

      1. UAS operated under declaration of federal, state, or university emergency may be exempt from these guidelines.

      2. If model aircraft operation is approved by EHSRM, model aircraft must be kept within visual sightline of the operator, and should weigh under 55 pounds unless certified by an aeromodelling community-based organization. Model aircraft must be flown a sufficient distance from populated areas and have operation approved by the department responsible for the property where the craft is requested to be operated and the office EHSRM (requires proof of registration).

      3. Under FAA guidelines, temporary flight restrictions may apply and must be followed.

    3. Sanctions - Violations

      1. Legal prohibitions regarding physical presence on campus, trespassing, and other legal action may also be pursued against third parties that operate UAS or model aircraft in violation of this policy.

      2. Fines or damages incurred by individuals or units that do not comply with this policy are the responsibility of those persons involved.


    1. Reviewers of this UPPS include the following:

      Position Date
      Director, Environmental Health, Safety and Risk Management April 1 E3Y
      Chair, University Safety Committee April 1 E3Y

    This UPPS has been approved by the following individuals in their official capacities and represents Texas State policy and procedure from the date of this document until superseded.

    Director, Environmental Health, Safety and Risk Management; senior reviewer of this UPPS

    Vice President for Finance and Support Services