JMU Policy – DRAFT

Policy 2210
Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)
Date of Current Revision: August 24, 2016
Primary Responsible Officer: Vice Provost for Research & Scholarship
Secondary Responsible Officer: Risk Manager


This policy sets forth the university’s rules and regulations concerning use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), sometimes known as drones, on or above university property.


The Board of Visitors has been authorized by the Commonwealth of Virginia to govern James Madison University. See Code of Virginia section 23-164.6; 23-9.2:3. The Board has delegated the authority to manage the university to the president.


The operation of UAS in the National Airspace System (NAS), including drones and model aircraft, is regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, 49 USC 47101, et seq.(FMRA), and the use of UAS by public bodies in the Commonwealth of Virginia by Code of Virginia §19.2-60.1. The use of a UAS also applies to Code of Virginia §18.2-386.1 concerning illegal capture of images of another person.


Air Traffic Organization (ATO)
The ATO is the operational arm of the FAA. It is responsible for providing safe and efficient air navigation services over all of the United States and portions of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and the Gulf of Mexico.

Certificate of Authorization or Waiver (COA)
An authorization issued by the ATO to a public operator for a specific UAS activity.

Coordinator of UAS Efforts
The official appointed by the Vice Provost for Research and Scholarship and assigned the official responsibility under this policy to chair the UASOC.

The popular name for a type of UAS.

FAR Part 107
Part 107 of the Federal Aviation Regulations. New rules for non-hobbyist small unmanned aircraft (UAS) operations that cover a broad spectrum of commercial uses for drones weighing less than 55 pounds.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
The national aviation authority of the United States, with powers to regulate all aspects of American civil aviation, including the use of UAS.

Federal Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (FMRA)
Federal statute (49 USC 47101, et seq.) regulating the use of aircraft, including UAS, in the NAS.

Model Aircraft
A UAS used not for business purposes, but for hobby and recreation purposes. Model aircraft are operated under different FAA regulations than other types of UAS.

National Airspace System (NAS)
The airspace, navigation facilities and airports of the United States along with their associated information, services, rules, regulations, policies, procedures, personnel and equipment.

Private Spaces
Areas where an occupant has a reasonable expectation of privacy in accordance with accepted social norms. These areas include but are not limited to restrooms, locker rooms, residential areas, changing or dressing rooms, lactation rooms, the insides of campus daycare facilities and health treatment rooms.

Section 333 Exemption
An FAA exemption based on Section 333 of the FMRA, which grants the United States Secretary of Transportation the authority to determine whether an airworthiness certificate is required for a UAS to operate safely in the NAS.

UAS Oversight Committee (UASOC)
The university committee charged with reviewing and approving all requests for UAS flights or activity on or over university property. This includes UAS uses in university curriculum, granted under separate COAs, and all other UAS flights or activities under other authorizations or exemptions, including but not limited to vendors and other third parties. For procedures, see Section 6.

University Property
Buildings, grounds and land that are owned or controlled by the university. This includes property leased, rented or otherwise contractually reserved for JMU operations, either permanently or on a temporary basis.

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)
UAS refers to small, unmanned aircraft systems, sometimes known as “drones,” normally under 55 lbs. A UAS is the unmanned aircraft and all of the associated support equipment, 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 are covered under different regulations, but for the purposes of this policy, they are covered by the university’s rules.


This policy applies to all employees of the university, students, alumni, volunteers, donors, business representatives, contractors, and others having legitimate business on university property. The policy is also applicable to all visitors to the university and to any person or entity operating a UAS on or above university property.

This policy also applies to the purchase of UASs with funding through the university, including university accounts, grants or other foundation accounts, and the hiring for or contracting for any unmanned aircraft services by any unit or individual university community member using any university funds, regardless of source.


Operation of any UAS on or above any university property or at any university-sponsored event is prohibited unless first approved by the UASOC. Operation of any UAS on or above any university property without prior permission is trespassing, and may result in sanctions. See Section 9.


6.1 Requests to Operate UAS
Individuals or organizations seeking to operate UAS on or above university property or at a university-sponsored event must submit a completed UAS Request Form requested via [email protected] to the UASOC at least two weeks in advance of the planned flight or operation.

6.1.1. Any university employee wishing to operate UAS as part of university employment or a university program must be certificated as required under FAR PART 107.

6.1.2. Any university employee, student or academic unit purchasing a UAS (or the parts to assemble a UAS) or contracting UAS services with university funds or funds being disbursed through a university account or grant funds, must notify and request approval through the UASOC. This is required in order for the university to meet a responsibility to investigate any required FAA waivers, and to meet state compliance requirements.

6.1.3. All outdoor UAS operations must be approved by UASOC. UAS must be properly registered and marked per FAA UAS guidelines and flown within the specified parameters of the registry act (e.g., under 400ft above ground level, away from stadiums, people, etc.) in order to receive approval from UASOC for use on university property. Any third party professional or hobbyist wishing to use UAS (including a model aircraft) over university property must first receive approval through UASOC, with the following exception:

  • No prior approval by UASOC is required for use of a UAS indoors by university community members, except at university events. UAS flown indoors do not fall within the authority of the FAA. However, UAS flown indoors shall comply with university policy guidelines for safety. No UAS operations will be conducted at any indoor event without written permission from UASOC, Department of Public Safety and other appropriate university administrators.

Operation of a UAS by a third party professional or hobbyist over university property must include a signed written agreement which holds the university harmless from any resulting claims or harm to individuals and damage to university property and attest to $1 million insurance coverage.

Third party professionals or hobbyists requesting permission to use UAS must provide proof of FAA certification of the operator and registration of the aircraft.

A third party professional or hobbyist’s use of UAS must comply with all other applicable university policies, including all safety guidelines, and must not disrupt or interfere with university operations

6.2 Approvals and Exemptions
After a complete application is submitted, the UASOC will determine whether an FAA waiver is required. The UASOC will submit the necessary request to the FAA. The FAA conducts a comprehensive operational and technical review of all waiver requests. If necessary, provisions or limitations may be imposed as part of the approval to ensure the UAS can operate safely with other airspace users or large spectator groups not directly participating in operations. In most cases, the FAA will provide a formal waiver responses within 90 days from the time a completed request is submitted.

If FAA approval is needed, no permission from the university will be granted to a user unless and until the FAA’s formal response granting a waiver is received.

6.3 Use of UAS in Course Work
Faculty teaching courses may assist students who are operating a UAS, provided the student maintains operational control of the UAS such that the faculty member’s manipulation of the UAS is incidental to the student’s control (e.g., the faculty member steps in to regain control in the event the student begins to lose control, to terminate the flight, etc.). Faculty members may need proper FAA certification depending on the intended use of UAS. UASOC will help guide faculty members in meeting any certification requirement.

All faculty teaching courses where a UAS may be used must request permission for flights and register any university owned UAS through the UASOC. Faculty are responsible for briefing students on the appropriate and safe practices for UAS use prior to flight.

6.4 Recording of Private Spaces
UAS shall not be used to monitor or record any use or surveillance of private spaces. UAS shall not be used to monitor or record residential hallways, residential lounges or the insides of campus daycare facilities. UAS shall not be used to monitor or record sensitive institutional or personal information that may be found on an individual’s workspaces, on computer or other electronic displays, or in private or business meetings or conversations.

In operating a UAS for purposes of recording or transmitting visual images, operators must take all reasonable measures to avoid violations of private spaces. Virginia state law provides that a person who knowingly or intentionally places a camera or electronic surveillance equipment that records images or data in violation of an expectation of privacy commits a Class A misdemeanor.

6.5 Unintentional Data Collection
Any data inadvertently obtained on non-consenting individuals or their property must be eliminated immediately. When unintentional data collection occurs, all reasonable efforts must be made to ensure that these data are not abused in any manner or transmitted outside of the test area. Collection, use and dissemination of the data must be limited to the provisions of the approved project. Protocols for the use, distribution, security, and retention of collected data must comply with university policy.

6.6 Student Gathered Data
In accordance with FAA regulations, use of student gathered data, flight video or other materials for commercial use is prohibited. Any operation not conducted strictly for hobby or recreation purposes may not be operated under the special rule for model aircraft. Commercial operations are not considered a hobby or recreational flight. Flights that are in furtherance of a business, or incidental to a person’s business, are not considered a hobby or recreation flight.

6.7 Use of Model Aircrafts
Private individuals using model aircraft on or above university property are required to abide by FAA rules for model aircraft. Model aircraft must be kept within visual sightline of the operator, and should weigh no more than 55 pounds unless certified by an aeromodeling community-based organization. Model aircraft must be flown below 400 feet and clear from populated areas under FAA regulations. No model aircraft may be flown on or above any populated university property without applying for and obtaining advance permission from the UASOC.

6.8 Composition of the UASOC
The UASOC committee will include representatives from the following: Division of Academic Affairs, Campus Police/Department of Public Safety, Risk Management, and Facilities Management, as well as an Academic Unit Head. The committee is chaired by the Coordinator of UAV Efforts. A representative of University Legal Services serves ex officio on the committee.

The Vice Provost for Research and Scholarship and the Senior Vice President for Administration and Finance make appointments to the UASOC.


The Coordinator of UAS Efforts is appointed by the Vice Provost for Research and Scholarship. The Vice Provost for Research and Scholarship is the FAA account holder for COAs for James Madison University.

The Coordinator of UAS Efforts processes all applications and informs the UASOC of recommendations on applications.

The UASOC has responsibility to:

  1. Review and approve all requests for UAS flights on university property, including those UAS flights requiring an FAA waiver or separate COA approval, as well as all other UAS flights under other authorizations or exemptions, including vendors or other third parties.
  2. Make recommendations regarding UAS policy exceptions and changes to the University Policy Committee concerning this policy.
  3. Review any complaints regarding the use of UAS and determine whether applicable policy, laws or regulations have been followed.
  4. Recommend suspension or termination of any UAS use it deems inconsistent with the approved use and/or requirements of FAR Part 107 and University Public Safety Policy or other forms of authorization.
  5. Maintain records of up-to-date federal, state and local regulations, as well as a current list of all qualified operators and university owned UAS.

All members of the James Madison University community are responsible for complying with FAA regulations, state and federal laws, and university policies. Inherent risks in the operation of such equipment may require additional insurance provisions and/or policy considerations not addressed in this policy.

The Senior Vice President for Administration and Finance and the Vice Provost for Research and Scholarship are responsible for making appointments to the UASOC.


8.1 Emergency Use by Law Enforcement

The operation of UAS by the University Police Department are exempt from this policy based on the determination of emergency needs, provided the department has had sufficient training on the specific model UAS to be employed and adheres to FAA certification guidelines. In accordance with Section 19.2-60.1 of the Code of Virginia, no state or local government department, agency, or instrumentality having jurisdiction over criminal law enforcement or regulatory violations shall utilize UASs except during the execution of a search warrant. However, an UAS may be deployed without a warrant when an Amber Alert, Senior Alert or Blue Alert is activated; where use of UAS is determined to be necessary to alleviate an immediate danger to any person; for training exercises related to such uses; or if a person with legal authority consents to the warrantless search.

8.2 Non-University Property

This policy does not apply to the use of UAS on or over property not owned or controlled by the university. However, all university community members seeking to use a UAS owned or licensed to the university on or above other property must receive approval for such use in advance from the UASOC.


The FAA has the right and responsibility to enforce FAA policies. Violators of FAA policy may face criminal or civil penalties. Fines or penalties incurred by individuals or units that do not comply with this policy will not be paid by James Madison University and will be the responsibility of those persons involved.

Violations of university policy by employees or students will be addressed in accordance with appropriate university policies and procedures, which may include disciplinary action up to and including, but not limited to, termination from employment, dismissal from the university and/or legal action.

Trespassing by third parties, including trespassing via Model Aircraft or UAS, will be addressed according to university policies and may result in no trespass orders and/or legal action.

Any individual or organization found to be operating a UAS on university property or at a university sponsored event in violation of their FAA approved status, or any federal, state and local laws or regulations, or in violation of applicable university policies may be directed by authorized university representatives to immediately cease UAS operation unless or until approval is obtained.

Illegal use of UAS may subject the user to criminal prosecution, and the UAS may be subject to seizure by law enforcement authorities.

Under FAA guidelines, Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR) may be implemented on university property or at a university sponsored event, which prohibit any type of UAS operations from taking place (e.g., university sporting events). As needed, the university may issue additional No Drone Zones on university property or any university sponsored event, which prohibit any type of UAS operations from taking place at all times.

The approval of a UAS operation on campus does not alleviate the operator from any and all costs associated with the retrieval of UAS from university structures, restricted areas, or treetops. Retrieval costs of UAS vary by location, manpower, and equipment needed. Retrieval services can be coordinated by Facilities Management Work Control at 568-6106.


The authority to interpret this policy rests with the President and is generally delegated to the Vice Provost for Research and Scholarship. The Vice Provost for Research and Scholarship is responsible for the oversight of this policy.