Getting Started

Drone Operations at Penn State

Indoor and outdoor flights on Penn State property or affiliated Penn State property and/or for Penn State affiliated activities, including but not limited research, teaching, hobby, etc., must submit a request to fly and go through the proper approval process. Please submit your request to fly at least one week in advance. Here are a few steps on how to get started.

Penn State faculty, staff and students: Review the SOP on Submitting a Request to Fly for additional information.

Third Party Pilots

Please submit the following information to

  • First and last name of pilot 
  • Company email address of pilot 
  • First and last name of who you are working with at Penn State 
  • Brief description about the purpose of the drone flight 
  • Register for a Penn State account and provide the email (example: abc123)

Resource to review the SOP for Third Parties Submitting a Request to Fly.

Penn State Pilots

Type of Drone

Personally owned drones are not permitted to be used on University property or for a University affiliated activity. All drone purchase requests must be sent to the Office for Research Protections (ORP) before purchasing. We encourage you to consider drones that are manufacturered in the United States since there are upcoming bans related to certain drone manufacturers. The Blue UAS list is a good source for drones that will be used for work with the Department of Defense (DOD). Skip to Step 2 if you have already purchased a drone. The Green UAS list is a good source for non-DOD related work. The specifications, along with responses to the following questions, should be sent to for approval.

  1. Is the product coming from a supplier or vendor directly? If a vendor, ask the vendor what the export control classification number (ECCN) is for the item being purchased.  
  2. Will the drone be used out of state or out of country?  
  3. Is the drone being used under a research grant, if so, what is the grant name and who is the granting/funding agency?  


If the drone is Penn State-owned, follow the instructions on the SOP for Registering a Penn State-owned drone. Note Penn State purchased drones must be registered under the name "The Pennsylvania State University". After registering, the Penn State-owned drone must be added to the fleet of insured vehicles at Penn State. Instructions on how to do so can be found on the SOP for Insurance Requirements. 3rd parties should follow their own company rules on registering their drone and follow the Part 107 regulations around registration.

Required Training

Complete the required training on Canvas. You can skip this step if you have successfully completed all online modules or if you have been grandfathered in (standardization pilots and anyone who demonstrated qualifications prior to December 2018). In addition to completing the online training modules in Canvas, Penn State employees and students will need to demonstrate their qualifications with one of our standardized pilots. Review the SOP on Training and Qualification Requirements for additional information. 

Submit a Drone Request to Fly

All personnel, including faculty, staff, students and third parties (contractors) wishing to operate drones on Penn State property, Penn State-affiliated property, or as part of a Penn State activity must go through the proper channels to request approval. Drone operations are not permitted until approval is granted by the central Drone Operations Team within the Office for Research Protections. Please submit your request to fly at least one week in advance. Refer to the following SOP for the Request to Fly Process.