The Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (Drones)

Policy number: 11.9

Policy section: Risk Management

Revised Date: May 16, 2022

1.  Definitions

Definitions of capitalized terms are set forth in Appendix A. Other terms not defined in this policy shall have the meanings defined in §1.1 of the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) regulations.

2.  Policy Statement

All members of the University community are personally responsible for complying with the FAA regulations, state and federal laws, and University policies.

3.  Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to protect the safety and privacy of University faculty, staff, students, visitors, and neighbors, as well as protect University buildings and property, while facilitating the use of Drone technology for research, teaching, operations, and outreach activities. This policy applies to all faculty, staff, students, University contractors, and visitors.

4.  Applicability

This policy applies to all Individuals who operate Drones on University Property and to any Individuals who operate Drones on behalf of the University for a University Assignment.

5.  Questions

Questions about this policy should be directed to the Office of Risk Management. Detailed information regarding FAA regulations is available on the FAA website at

6.  Program Procedures

The Office of Risk Management will implement the University’s program’s operating procedures which address the following:

  1. Safe operations and registration of all Drones operated on University Property or on University Assignment;
  2. Training procedures and registration for all Individuals operating Drones under the scope of this policy;
  3. Procedures and approvals for all flight plans associated with Drone operations under the scope of this policy; and
  4. Resources to assist Individuals with compliance with SMU and FAA policies and procedures.

For more detailed procedures regarding the University’s drone procedure and approval process, please see

7.  Drone Use Requirements

In order to operate Drones on University Property or University Assignment, Individuals must:

  1. Register all Drones with the FAA and provide a copy of the FAA registration to the University prior to operating a Drone on University Property or University Assignment;
  2. Register all operators and provide proof of appropriate trainings to the Office of Risk Management;
  3. File a flight plan to be approved by the Office of Risk Management and abide by FAA airspace authorization procedures; and
  4. Follow all appropriate rules for safe operations.

NOTE: In exigent circumstances for public safety purposes, SMUPD may initiate emergency drone usage operations. Operations will be in compliance with FAA regulations and follow the SMUPD internal policy.

8.  Drone Use Classifications

The use of Drones on, above, or in University Property by University Individuals is generally prohibited except for the following purposes:

  1. Business Use
    All Individuals operating Drones for business purposes must have a Remote Pilot’s Certificate or be under the direct supervision of a person who holds such a certificate, as stipulated by the FAA Part 107 guidelines.  This includes flights for any commercial service such as construction surveys, filming athletic practices, or producing a promotional video.  If operating a Drone is part of an Individual’s employment, or if they are being compensated, the Individual typically falls into this category.
  2. Education and Research
    Individuals operating Drones for educational purposes, including researchers, may procure a license through the FAA Part 107 Certification Program, or must pass the Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST) – which offers more limited operations. The preferred certification is the full FAA 107 Certification – especially for professors and supervisors that provide Drone training to others or provide oversight to groups operating Drones.
  3. Student Club or Hobbyist
    Individuals operating Drones for recreational purposes as part of a student activity/club or as a hobbyist must, at a minimum, complete the FAA Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST).

9.  Violations

  1. An individual who acts in violation of this policy will be sanctioned in accordance with applicable University policies and procedures regarding disciplinary actions, which may include, but is not limited to, termination, suspension, expulsion, or removal from the University.
  2. Legal prohibitions regarding physical presence on campus/trespassing and other legal action may also be pursued against Individuals who operate Drones in violation of this policy.
  3. Fines or damages incurred by Individuals that do not comply with this policy will not be paid by the University and will be the responsibility of those persons involved.

Appendix A: Definitions

“Drone” refers to any unmanned aircraft or unmanned vehicle, unmanned remote control and free-flight drones, helicopters, airplanes, mechanically propelled or propellant guided balloons, and rockets, ofany size or weight along with all the associated support equipment, control station, data links, telemetry, communications, and navigation equipment, etc., necessary to operate any of the foregoing objects.

“Individuals” refers to an SMU employee, student, contractor, or visitor.

“University Property” refers to any property owned, rented, or leased by the University.

“University Assignment” refers to any SMU employee, student, contractor, or visitor who is operating a drone on behalf of SMU at an off-site location.

Revised: May 16, 2022

Adopted: February 12, 2018