Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)

University Policy: 
Executive Summary: 

UNC Charlotte recognizes the potential value of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) for educational, commercial and recreational purposes. In consideration of the personal safety and well-being of the UNC Charlotte campus community, and in accordance with applicable state and federal laws, this Policy establishes requirements for operation of UAS on or above the UNC Charlotte facilities.

I.          Policy Statement and Purpose

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) offer great potential as tools for research and teaching.  This Policy establishes a framework for identifying, managing, and mitigating risk when using UAS at UNC Charlotte, in accordance with all state and federal laws and regulations, and in furtherance of UNC Charlotte’s institutional goals and objectives.

II.         Definitions

When used in this Policy, the following definitions apply:

  1. “Departments” and “Units” include UNC Charlotte colleges, divisions, departments, units, programs, centers and institutes, as well as their designated University employees.
  2. “Indoor” means inside an enclosed space that can be reasonably expected to prevent an Unmanned Aircraft from exiting the space while in flight.
  3. “Large-scale events” are those events as defined in University Policy 601.6, Scheduling University Facilities.
  4. “University Activity” means any activity or use by a UNC Charlotte Department or Unit for the purpose of education, instruction, photography, research, promotion, publicity, or other business purposes, including indoor and outdoor activity.
  5. “University premises” means buildings or grounds owned, leased, operated, controlled or managed by UNC Charlotte.
  6. “Unmanned Aircraft” means a device used or intended to be used for flight in the air that has no onboard pilot.  Unmanned aircraft do not include balloons, rockets, unpowered gliders, or model aircraft, consistent with N.C. Gen. Stat. Chapter 63, Article 10, Operation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems.
  7. “Unmanned Aircraft System” (UAS) means an Unmanned Aircraft and associated elements including, but not limited to, communication links and components that control the unmanned aircraft and are required for the pilot in command to operate safely and efficiently.  These are commonly referred to as “drones.”

III.        Applicability

This Policy applies to all University Activities involving the use and operation of UAS.  This Policy also applies to any individual(s) or group(s) operating a UAS for hobby or recreational purposes on University premises.

IV.       Procedures

A. General Requirements

All operators of UAS on University premises, whether for a University Activity or for hobby or recreational use, must comply with all applicable federal and state statutes and regulations established by the Federal Aviation Administration and the North Carolina Division of Aviation.

B. University UAS Activities

  1. The UAS Advisory Group, as described in Section IV.B.4 below, shall have oversight of all operations of UAS for University Activities under the direction of the Associate Vice Chancellor for Safety and Security.

As soon as practicable, but at least 2 business days in advance of any University UAS Activity, all Departments and Units, or third parties flying under a Department or Unit’s direction and control, must complete and submit to the Office of Risk Management and Insurance (RMI’s), an online University Activities: UAS/Drone Flight Request Form. At a minimum, the following information is required:

  • Proof of any required license;
  • Proof of any required permit or authorization;
  • Detailed flight plan, including proposed date(s) and location(s) of the UAS flight(s);
  • Brief description of the purpose of the flight(s);
  • List of individuals involved in the operation of the flight(s);
  • Attestation that the Department or Unit will follow applicable University policies and federal and state statutes and regulations;
  • Proof of insurance showing a minimum of $1M in general liability insurance and naming UNC Charlotte as an additional insured (Departments and Units must procure insurance through RMI for any University owned UAS); and
  • Any additional information as requested by the UAS Advisory Group.
  1. The completion of the University Activities: UAS/Drone Flight Request Form may authorize single flights or multiple flights that are part of the same scope of work or project.
  2. Departments or Units must submit a new University Activities: UAS/Drone Flight Request Form if there are any substantial changes to proposed University Activities (e.g., change in type of aircraft, location, date(s), or activities conducted).
  3. The UAS Advisory Group consists of at least one representative from the following: Police and Public Safety, Risk Management and Insurance, Environmental Health and Safety, Office of Emergency Management, and Office of Legal Affairs. The UAS Advisory Group shall serve as an advisory body to the Associate Vice Chancellor for Safety and Security on University UAS Activities. The Advisory Group shall be responsible for reviewing and recommending rules, procedures, and standards for UAS operation to the Associate Vice Chancellor for Safety and Security.
  4. The UAS Advisory Group or the Director of RMI may require a safety risk assessment to be completed prior to approving any University UAS Activities.
  5. In addition to a safety risk assessment, the UAS Advisory Group or the Director of RMI may require modifications to be made to the UAS flight plan.
  6. The operator of the UAS must report all UAS incidents (i.e. accidents, damage to University property, injuries, complaints) to the Department Head, Unit Director, or Dean of the applicable college; Police and Public Safety; and the Director of RMI immediately, but in any event no later than, twenty-four (24) hours after an incident has occurred.
  7. If an individual or Department or Unit seeks to operate a UAS indoors, approval of such operation must be granted in advance by the building manager for the requested space, in consultation with the Director of RMI and the Director of Environmental Health and Safety.
  8. If an individual or Department or Unit seeks to operate a UAS for a University Activity in airspace over land that is not owned or controlled by UNC Charlotte, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the University and the landowner must be negotiated and signed prior to UAS use over such land.  The Department or Unit sponsoring the University Activity is responsible for consulting with the UAS Advisory Group and the Office of Legal Affairs to negotiate and establish an MOU.
  9. Any data recorded during the operation of a UAS for University Activity must be maintained in accordance with University Policy 605.3, Retention, Disposition, and Security of University Records.
  10. The UAS Advisory Group or the Director of RMI reserve the right to withdraw authorization for any University UAS Activity without notice, for any reason.
  11. Written requests for exceptions to these requirements may be submitted to the Office of Risk Management and Insurance.

C. Hobby or Recreational Uses

  1. Persons who wish to operate UAS on University premises for hobby or recreational purposes must complete the RMI’s online Hobby and Recreational Use: UAV/Drone Flight Information Form at least 24 hours before the proposed date of the use. At a minimum the following information is required: 
    1. the name of the UAS operator,
    2. the type of UAS to be flown,
    3. the dates, times, and locations where the UAS will be operated,
    4. the names of all individuals who will be participating in the activity, and
    5. certification that the operator will comply with all applicable University policies as well as any applicable state or federal laws, regulations, or rules.
  2. A campus map is available online showing recommended areas for hobby or recreational uses if UAS at UNC Charlotte. Generally, areas include University Recreation Fields 11, 12, and 14a.
  3. Hobby or recreational users who wish to record campus events or performances, must obtain additional advance approval from the event or performance organizer, who will work in conjunction with University Communications.
  4. The UAS Advisory Group and the Director of RMI reserve the right to require any users to cease any hobby or recreational UAS operations on campus without notice, for any reason.

D.        Prohibited Uses

The following uses of UAS are prohibited on University premises:

  1. Non-University flights for work, business, or a commercial enterprise. The University may permit this type of use on a case-by-case basis where the non-University operator enters into a contract with the University and complies with the requirements listed in Section IV.B.1 of this Policy. 
  2. In, near, or above Jerry Richardson Stadium on the day of a football game, commencement, or any other large-scale event.
  3. In, near, or above University residence halls at any time.
  4. To monitor or record sensitive institutional or personal areas where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy, including, but not limited to, personal workspaces, restrooms, locker rooms, and health treatment rooms.
  5. To monitor or record areas of University premises where programs involving the participation of minors are taking place, unless expressly approved by the Office of Risk Management and Insurance.
  6. Flights when the University is in Operating Condition C1, C2, or C3. (See University Policy 701, Adverse Weather and Emergency Events.)

Exceptions to these prohibited uses must be requested in writing and may be granted by Office of Risk Management and Insurance after consultation with the UAS Advisory Group.

E.        Standards

All operators must comply with all laws and regulations promulgated by the NCDOT and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), including but not limited to the following restrictions, which are subject to change as promulgated by state or federal law or regulation:

  • No flying over people (Note: this severely limits UAS flights on campus).
  • No flying more than 400 feet above ground or 400 feet above a structure, so long as the UAS remains within 400 feet of the structure.
  • No flying outside daytime hours, defined as 30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset.
  • No flying in an unsafe manner.
  • No flying beyond the operator's ability to see the aircraft.
  • No flying while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • No flying in a manner that interferes with air traffic.
  • No flying close to another aircraft as to create a collision hazard.
  • No photography of spaces where an individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy.

F.        Compliance and Violations

  1. All members of the UNC Charlotte community share the responsibility of compliance with all aspects of this Policy. Violations of this Policy can be reported to UNC Charlotte Police or the Office of Risk Management and Insurance.
  2. Failure to comply with this Policy may result in the following consequences:
  1. Any person who operates a UAS on or above University premises in violation of this Policy may be required to cease operation immediately.
  2. Any violation of this Policy may subject a University student or employee to appropriate disciplinary action in accordance with the applicable disciplinary policy.
  3. Any violation of this Policy by individuals who are not UNC Charlotte students or employees may result in the individual being prohibited from future flights and/or the individual being trespassed from University premises.
  4. Any person who fails to comply with applicable FAA regulations and/or state laws and regulations may face significant fines and personal liability.