Drone FAQs

Questions that are not covered in this FAQ section can be routed to the Drone Operations Team (orp-drones@psu.edu). 

Registration: Where do I go and how do I register a Penn State-owned drone with the FAA?

Are PSU faculty, staff and students permitted to fly a drone for business purposes?

All drone operations must submit a request to fly. The Drone Operations team will review your request to make sure the opration can be conducted in a safe manner.  Additional items may be needed and a full list can be found on the Getting Started page

Third Party Contractors: Can I fly a drone on PSU property (includes all commonwealth campuses)?

Organizations not affiliated with Penn State wishing to fly on Penn State-owned or affiliated property and/or for Penn State purposes must submit a request to fly. Operations are not permitted to be conducted until final approval is granted by the Drone Operations Team.

After submitting a request to fly, the Drone Operations Team will let you know if additional documents are needed to make a determination about approval. Review the Getting Started page for a full list of information needed.

Hobbyists: Can I fly my drone for fun on PSU Property?

Hobbyist flights are NOT permitted on University property; the institution identifies this as trespassing. 

Drone use for teaching activity: Can we use drones as part of a course curriculum?

Faculty members must submit a request to fly each semester and must wait for approval by the Drone Operations Team before conducting the mission. If the operation(s) is/are being used strictly for teaching purposes and no research or data is being captured, than this would fall under Section 44809 (hobby/recreation) rules.  Manipulation of the UAV controls must be conducted by the student.  The Instructor is only permitted to operate the controls in the case of an emergency or if the Instructor feels that there is potential for danger in regards to personnel safety and/or property.

Student Organization: Can we fly drones on PSU property as part of our student organization?

Student organizations are not covered by Penn State's drone liability insurance; therefore, operations by student organizations are not permitted unless conducted by a third party. Third parties must submit a flight request and be granted approval to fly before operations are conducted. If a request has been submitted by you have not heard back, please email orp-drones@psu.edu

Football Games: Can I fly my drone during PSU football games?

Short Answer – NO

Please leave your drone at home, as it is not allowed for a slew of reasons. First, it would be flying over non-participating public, and that is not allowed. Second, it would be flying within controlled airspace due to vicinity to the University Park Airport, which requires special permissions. Third, during large sporting events such as NASCAR races and NCAA football games, the FAA places a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) around the sports site from surface to 3000 ft. above the ground, within a 3 nautical mile radius. No air vehicles, manned or otherwise, are allowed in this space during the period the TFR is in effect. 

Purchasing: Can I purchase a drone with my P-Card?

Please direct full drone purchasing questions to orp-drones@psu.edu. Note drone parts do not need to be approved by the Drone Operations Team before purchasing. The Drone Operations Management Team will need to verify if the drone is acceptable for PSU insurance and possibly with Export Control, prior to purchase.

Indoor Use: Can I fly my drone indoors?

Indoor flights must submit a request to fly and must receive approval from the Drone Operations Team before conducting the mission. 

The FAA does not regulate the use of drones indoors, however, the institutional requirement is that you first receive proper approval and following, you must fly safely and not operate in public thoroughfares or during public events, nor are you permitted to operate in a manner that would cause undue harm or hazard to persons or property.  If you have questions, please contact the Drone Operations Management Team (orp-drones@psu.edu).

Police Services: What should I do in the case Police Services stops my flight?

Police Services have the right to ask questions and ask for paperwork. Although you may have received approval from the Drone Operations Team, it is possible that Police Services was not notified (depends on the location). If you are approached by a Police Officer, please follow these instructions. 

  • Calmly and safely return the drone to ground and ask if you can power off all items.
  • Provide a copy of the RPIC Part 107 certificate, Drone Approval Email/Screenshot and any applicable FAA Waivers (you should have this available with you during any operation).
  • Follow all directives provided by Police Services.  If they terminate flight, ground the drone for the remainder of operation.
  • Police Services may or may not write a report based on the incident at hand.  This report will most likely end up being reviewed by the Drone Operations Team.
  • If you are approached by a Police Officer and yoru flight is terminated/grounded, email the Drone Operations Team within 1 hour (orp-drones@psu.edu) so that we can coordinate with Police services and get you back up in the air. 

Can I fly on behalf of Penn State at PA State Parks?

Fying at a State Park: Currently there are only 6 designated State parks where Drone Operations are permitted. Please visit the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) website for more information. Note the information below is from the DCNR website but is subject to change so be sure to cross-reference their website as needed. 

Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) and Drones Use (from PA DCNR)

In an effort to balance public safety, privacy concerns, view-shed and sound-shed protection, and FAA rules and regulations with the popular recreational use of drones or other types of unmanned aerial systems (UAS), the Bureau of State Parks recently implemented a new management policy.

The bureau permits drone and other UAS use at six designated flying sites within the following state parks:

Drone and UAS operators need to contact the park office of the flying site that they plan to visit to ensure compliance with all rules and regulations.

Please be advised that the entire park at each of these locations is not open to UAS or drone usage. Only the designated flying site within each park is open to UAS use.

The use of drones or other UAS is restricted at all other Bureau of State park locations.


Waivers: Where should I go to request a waiver and who is responsible for making the request?

Please email the Drone Operations Team (orp-drones@psu.edu) indicating the type of waiver you need. They will work with you on the details for the waiver and will submit the waiver on behalf of Penn State, even if the waiver is only needed for your individual unit, project or area. It is important that you work with the Drone Operations Team and not submit a waiver on your own.