What is an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS)?

An Unmanned Aircraft System is defined in the FOM as “Any unmanned aircraft, either heavier or lighter than air.” This includes everything from the aircraft itself, known as the Unmanned Aircraft (UA), as well as any on ground systems used in the operation of that aircraft. [Section 1.3]

Are students allowed to have drones on campus?

Students can have their drones on campus if they are not operating them. Operation of drones over the campus is prohibited without the permission of the Director of Flight Operations or the COA Control Committee. [Section 2.27] Storage of Drone batteries must be in accordance with applicable Building Proctor and Housing Services rules.

Do I need permission to fly drones on campus?

Yes, procedures in the FOM outline possible flight opportunities on campus and the process to get approval for these flights. If there is ever an extenuating scenario that requires a student to operate outside these rules they may seek permission from the Director of Flight Operations or the COA Control Committee. [Section 2.27]

How do I get permission to fly drones on campus?

You will need to contact the Director of Flight Operations or the COA Control Committee. These positions are all designated in the opening page of the FOM.

Who do CU Boulder’s drone policy and flight operations manual apply to?

Anyone who is an instructor or student on campus who is operating underneath a CU COA must follow all the rules and regulations outlined within the FOM. Likewise, anyone who is operating under FAR Part 107 for UCB must follow many of the rules outlined in the FOM with only a few being suggestions. Lastly anyone operating as a hobbyist for a UCB sanctioned club or any operations from UCB property must follow the rules outlined in the FOM. [Section 1.2]

What approvals/certifications are necessary before I fly a drone on campus or for university business off-campus?

To operate a drone for any university affiliated business, you must be certified as a PIC. This can be done through multiple routes all laid out within Chapter 3 of the FOM. [Chapter 3]

Where can I get certified to fly drones on campus or for university business elsewhere?

UCB has been granted permission to train our own PIC’s, CFI’s, and VO’s. The person responsible for the training program and who has the final authority to determine an individual’s qualifications is the Director of Flight Operations.

How do I determine what use category my drone use falls into?

If the aircraft is owned by UCB or has been bailed to UCB for operations then it may only be operated underneath a COA or by a Part 107 operator that has been approved by the Director of Flight Operations. If the aircraft is not owned by UCB and is in no way being used for training, research or conducting of business related to UCB then it can be operated under a hobbyist exemption. Further clarification can be found in Chapter 5. [Section 1.1]

Do I need to register my UAS?

Yes, as per the requirements set out by the FAA. Non-hobby aircraft must be registered. [Section 2.44]

What special requirements does CU Boulder have for flying drones on campus?

Anyone who is flying on campus must both adhere to the FOM and may not do so without obtaining permission from the Director of Flight Operations or the COA Control Committee. [Section 2.27]

What restrictions on filming video with drones on campus are there?

There is nothing in the FOM that restricts what can and cannot be filmed with your drone. You are still subject to the privacy laws set forth by your local municipality, your state, and the federal government.

Are there date or time restrictions for when drones can be flown on campus?

Drones currently do not have a time when they can be flown on campus. We are working on setting up a designated time and area where enthusiasts could fly on campus. [Section 2.27]

Do I need to notify CU Boulder each time I fly my drone?

If you are a certified PIC the only time you need to notify UCB ahead of time is is if you intend to fly over the UCB campus, Main, East or South, but you must always notify both UCB and the FAA of your flights in the form of NOTAM’s and by logging your flights afterwards in your flight log. [Sections 2.46/2.221]

What rules apply if I’m flying a drone over campus but operating it from off campus?

If you are a certified PIC with UCB then the entirety of the FOM applies to you if you are flying a UCB aircraft or your personal one over top campus. Violations of rules such as failing to notify the Director of Flight Operations in advance and safely quarantining off an area can lead to appropriate reprimandations.

Do I need anyone else with me when operating my drone?

Yes, any PIC is required to operate with a VO. [Section 2.19.1]

Can I drop objects from a drone while flying on campus?

Only if you can provide proof that you have taken ample precautions to avoid creating a hazard to persons or property. [Section 2.48]

What do I need to do if I crash my drone?

Within 24 hours you will need to submit a Safety Action Report (SAR) to the Director of Flight Operations. From there UCB will help you to make the decision on whether to submit a report to the FAA and how to proceed. [Section 2.18]

What do I do if I think someone is violating the campus drone policy?

It is suggested that you contact UCBPD who has the legal authority to ask the prescribed individual for their copy of the FOM. When the aircraft is on the ground then you may discuss any potential violations of the FOM. These violations should then be returned to the Director of Flight Operations.

Who is responsible for enforcing CU Boulder’s drone policy?         

Ultimately the responsibility for enforcing UCB’s drone policy falls to the Director of Flight Operations, the COA Control Committee and their appointed delegates. In many times this will be UCBPD under the supervision of the UCB Chief of Police.

How close to people can I fly my drone?

Many factors determine how close to people you may fly a drone including: whether you are flying as a hobbyist, under part 107 or a COA. You should consult the FOM or your specific COA for your specific situation.

Who do I contact if I still have questions after reading these frequently asked questions and the CU Boulder flight operations manual (FOM)?

Please feel free to contact the Director of Flight Operations if you have any additional questions.

Can I fly a drone Indoors?

Flights for UCB research, business, or instructional purposes are permitted in spaces officially designated as Indoor Flight Laboratories. (Contact the DO for a list of Indoor Flight Laboratories) Toy Drone flights for recreation are considered on a case by case basis by the DO and Building Proctor. [Section 6.2]

What other information resources are available for flying drones?

In addition to the rules and regulations outlined in the FOM and the COA all the rules in FAR’s still apply to any operator. These are published both in paper copies and online and are readily available to the public. If you need guidance looking for a specific section or part please feel free to contact us with questions!

Flying for official University or commercial purposes

How do I fly a UAS for official university purposes like research or teaching?

First and foremost, you, or someone flying on your behalf, will need to undergo training to become a PIC. This process is different for individuals with different backgrounds. Training is outlined in Chapter 3 of the FOM.

Can news media fly a UAS to shoot stories or cover breaking news?

If they have their part 107 and have specific permission from the Director of Flight Operations or the COA Control Committee. [Section 2.27]

Where on each of the CU Boulder campuses (Main, East, South, Williams Village) can drones be flown for research, teaching or commercial purposes? Where can they be operated from?

Drones may be flown on campus in areas that are both safe and reasonable according to the Director of Flight Operations. an example of a safe area would be studying the roof of a building looking for loose shingles if the area where the drone could fall is quarantined off. An example of a situation that would not be approved is to fly out over the crowd at Welcomefest to video the band playing. If reasonable precautions are shown to be taken and your objective does not violate any FAR’s permission may be granted for anywhere.

What about filming for class, group or individual student projects?

Even for educational or research purposes we require explicit permission from the Director of Flight Operations or the COA Control Committee.

Are there any additional restrictions on flying drones for international students or researchers?

Part of being certified as a PIC for UCB means that you must be proficient in English to the point where you can converse about the scenario at hand, brief your crew, and communicate with authorities such as ATC or the local PD. If there is any reason to believe that this requirement is not met, then you may not be certified. In addition, various aircraft and autopilots have export control restrictions on them which may bar International students or researchers from accessing them.

Flying for Fun

What approvals do I need to fly a drone for recreational or hobby uses?

If flying from CU property you will need written approval from the Director of Flight Operations or the COA Control Committee. In addition, you will need to ensure that you are following all regulations.

Where on each of the CU Boulder campuses (Main, East, South, Williams Village) can drones be flown for recreational or hobby purposes?

With DO or UAS Committee approval, flights over CUSB, East Campus and Main Campus are permitted. Refer to the FOM for details.

Can I fly drones over Folsom Field or other events on campus?

No. The FAA has many regulations that require you to remain away from crowds of people without their expressed consent. Likewise, when a NCAA football game is under way a Temporary Flight Restriction is always in effect. Flying in a restricted zone could lead to federal felony charges.

Do I need to notify nearby airports if I’m flying drones for recreational or hobby use?

There is a federal requirement to notify airports within 5 miles of your operations. We would encourage you to also issue a UAS Operating Area so other enthusiasts could see your intended flight plans for de-confliction.

Are the rules different for drones weighing less than 0.55 pounds?

Yes! Many of the rules do not apply to drones under 0.55lbs and the FAA does not have any regulations. Those operating on UCB property must still follow the rules outlined in Chapter 6 of the FOM.

Are there costs involved with flying on campus as a hobbyist?

We do not charge a fee or tax for the right to fly on campus. We do require that your aircraft is registered with CU and that you have an AMA card. Violations of the FOM however can be met with reprimandations that are seen fitting.

What is the AMA? Do I need a membership?

The Academy of Model Aeronautics is an organization that helps hobbyists and enthusiasts legally fly in the United States. The provide the required insurance for UAS operations. You are required to register with them to fly your drones as a hobbyist at UCB. The good news is that the membership fees are very low and it is a very simple process to get registered.

Can I use video shot with my drone in university-produced videos?

As a student or hobbyist, footage taken by you that you own can be used as you see fit.