Unmanned Aerial System Program - Drones

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UASs), sometimes referred to as drones, are an integral part of Southern Methodist University’s mission and operations. Drones are used by a variety of departments and numerous student groups on campus. From research activities to marketing campaigns, athletics, and even maintenance surveying, UASs are used regularly throughout the University.

These systems are heavily regulated by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) and various steps are required to ensure compliance and mitigate various safety and risk factors. The Office of Risk Management provides (ORM) oversight for the University Unmanned Aerial Systems program and questions can be directed to Gloria Ruiz-Research Safety Manager.

Drone operations on campus are governed by University Policy 9.11 and fall into three distinct categories:

  • Business and Commercial Use - including uses by Marketing and Communications, Athletics, Facilities, and any Contractors/3rd Parties
  • Educational Use by Institutes of Higher Education - including research and course assignments
  • Recreational Use - personal and club use

The following components of the program require completion, in the below order, prior to operating a drone on campus.


There are a variety of resources available from the FAA and SMU to assist operators with compliance.

SMU Drone Safety Rules   FAA Operator Resources