Unmanned Aircraft (UA) Operations at Penn State

Request to Fly at Penn State

All personnel wishing to operate UA (i.e., drones) on Penn State property or as part of a Penn State activity must submit the request form to the UA Operations Management Team.  Depending on the proposed operations, additional approvals from Risk Management and Strategic Communications may be needed prior to flight along with approval from UA Operations Management Team.UAS.png

Request to fly at PSU

Intro to UA Operations

This site is the central point for all parties interested in operating Unmanned Aircraft (UA) under the auspices of Penn State. An unmanned aerial system consists of an unmanned aircraft (UA) together with the supporting equipment to operate it, i.e., the ground station. UAs are also commonly referred to as drones, and the terms are mixed interchangeably below.

The fundamental purpose of all Penn State policies and procedures is to run safe, efficient, and effective UA operations. To that end, our program addresses pilot training and qualification, air vehicle qualification, site qualification, and the planning, tracking, and reporting of UA operations. The ultimate goals of the UA program at Penn State is to

  • Ensure compliance with all regulatory requirements
  • Execute UA operations safely, efficiently, and effectively
  • Provide guidance so operators can get into the air as painlessly as possible

Those wishing to fly should contact Penn State’s UA Operations Manager, at uas-orp@psu.edu. Also, you can follow the UA Operations Blog, which provides a running commentary on the programs and policies as they are assembled and offers a means to give feedback through the comments section.

For detailed requirements for the use of Unmanned Aircraft (“UA”) on property owned or controlled by The Pennsylvania State University (“Penn State” or “University”), or elsewhere for University-Affiliated Activities please refer to SY45 Use of Unmanned Aircraft ("UA").

History of UA Operations

Prior to summer of 2015, UA operations (drone flying) were essentially unregulated. The FAA, in response to the proliferation of UA and the increased number of incidents, stepped in to regulate operations and required commercial drone operators to request special permission to operate and to comply with very stringent procedures. The FAA’s website for UA is an information-rich site, and a rapidly moving target as the country works through the business of how to safely fly drones.

Penn State petitioned for an exemption to operate UA in July 2015 (Regulatory Docket No. FAA-2015-4639), shutting down all UA operations while waiting for approval. Penn State received the Grant of Exemption on 10 February 2016, Exemption No. 14751, which opened the door to resuming flight operations, but significant effort remained to ensure compliance. Penn State created a formal set of processes to ensure compliance with pilot training & qualification requirements; air vehicle (AV) requirements; flying site requirements; operations standardization; and an overall process for planning, tracking, and reporting flight operations. These processes are now in place, and Penn State can fly drones under tight restrictions, outlined in the Penn State UA Operations Manual, the Pre-Mishap Plan, and the Flight Preparation Checklist. All are in version 1.x, and are soon to be replaced. Those wishing to fly right now should should contact  Penn State’s UA Operations Manager, at uas-orp@psu.edu.

New Part 107 Rules  

The FAA's new set of rules, Part 107, allows Penn State to operate in a much more flexible manner. The rules are an excellent balance of allowing operators to flexibly achieve their UA goals while ensuring public safety; summary of rules. The new rules went into effect on 29 August 2016.

More Information

Contact Penn State’s UA Operations Manager: uas-orp@psu.edu

Follow the UA Operations Blog  

Penn State UA Operations Manl, Pre-Mishap Plan, and Flight Preparation Checklist