UAS FAQs

PSU Researchers/Departments (Including all commonwealth campuses): What do I need to do in order to fly on Penn State Property or as part of a Penn State activity?

PSU Researchers/Departments wishing to fly for PSU activity will be operating in accordance with FAA Part 107.  This means you will need:

  1. FAA Certified Remote Pilot to oversee operations.  PSU remote pilots will need to send a copy of their FAA Remote Pilot Certification to the UAS Operations Team.
  2. You will need to gain approval from the UAS Operations Management Team for the UAV that you are planning to fly.  Make/Model and FAA Registration # must be sent to the UAS Ops Team.  If it is a new model of UAV that we do not currently have in our fleet, you will be required to fill out a vehicle questionnaire sheet.
  3. Your UAV will need to be added to our fleet UAS insurance which is managed through the Risk Management office.  The UAS Ops Team forwards the vehicle information to Risk Management to be added to insurance.  Once insured, the UAS Ops Team will notify you.After the above three pieces are in place, you will need to submit the Request to Operate form that is located on the UAS Website.  The UAS Ops Team will review requests and determine if flight parameters can be approved.  This approval will be communicated to you. 
  4. After Flight request is approved, you will need to log all flights and submit flight logs to UAS Ops Team, uas-orp@psu.edu.

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

Organizations not affiliated with PSU are permitted to operate drones on PSU property as long as the flight request is being “sponsored” or backed by a PSU Department. For example, the Office of Physical Plant at Penn State wants to contract out drone work to inspect buildings on Penn State Campus. 

An example of a request that is NOT permitted, a wedding photography company wants to fly drones on PSU property to capture footage of a wedding at the arboretum. 

Permitted operations, What you will need to do:

  1. FAA Certified Remote Pilot to oversee operations.  The contractor will need to send a copy of their FAA Remote Pilot Certification to the UAS Operations Team. 
  2. You will need to gain approval from the UAS Operations Management Team for the UAV that you are planning to fly.  Make/Model and FAA Registration # must be sent to the UAS Ops Team.  
  3. You will need to provide proof of insurance to our Risk Management office (coverage of at least $1,000,000) and fill out an indemnification agreement form.  The UAS Ops Team can facilitate this process with Risk Management, just reach out to uas-orp@psu.edu.
  4. If photos/videos will be captured and used for company purposes, a filming agreement will need to be drafted with our Office of Strategic Communications. The UAS Ops Team can Facilitate this process.
  5. You will need to submit the Request to Operate form that is located on the UAS Website.  The UAS Ops Team will review requests and determine if flight parameters can be approved as written.  This approval will be communicated to you.  

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

Hobbyists are governed by a different set of FAA Regulations.  Personnel Flying under FAA Part 101 (Hobby/Recreation) must “Operate in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines and within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization,” i.e., the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA).  Other requirements include Calling Airport Air Traffic Control Tower prior to flight when operating within 5 Miles of an Airport (UPark), UAS flown within Visual Line of Sight (VLOS), flown strictly for recreation, etc.

  1. Persons NOT affiliated with PSU wishing to fly for fun on PSU property are NOT permitted.  The institution identifies this as trespassing.
  2. Persons (students) affiliated with PSU wishing to fly for fun on PSU property will need to submit the request to fly form on the PSU UAS Website.  This will be reviewed by the UAS Ops Management team and the approval will be communicated to you through email.
  3. If Approval is granted and your campus falls within controlled airspace, you will need to contact the airport air traffic control tower (ATC) prior to each flight.  If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact the UAS Ops Team @ uas-orp@psu.edu.

Drone use - Teaching Activity: Can we use drones as part of a course curriculum?

Faculty members are permitted to use drones as part of course curriculum.  If they are being used strictly for teaching purposes and no research or data is being captured, than this would fall under the FAA Part 101 (hobby/recreation) rules.  

  1. Caveat – 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.
  2. Send notification to the UAS Operations Management Team with your intentions for UAS use in class – uas-orp@psu.edu.

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

As of right now, the University does not permit student organizations to operate drones on PSU property.  Student Organization’s do not fall into any of the other categories and are a bit different in terms of their status with PSU.  Because the status is different, student organizations would be required to obtain their own insurance for UAVs.  The issue at the moment is in lack of insurance options for student orgs that the institution would deem acceptable. We are currently looking into a solution that would permit this type of operation.  For now, please keep drones grounded.  If you have any questions, please contact the UAS Operations Management Team – UAS-ORP@psu.edu.

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

Short Answer – NO

Please leave your quadcopter 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 drone purchasing questions to UAS-ORP@PSU.EDU. The UAS Operations Management Team will need to verify if the UAV is acceptable for PSU Insurance prior to purchase.

Indoor Use: Can I fly my drone indoors?

Yes, with some caveats:

The FAA does not regulate the use of drones indoors, however, the institutional requirement is that you fly safely; do not operate in public thoroughfares or during public events and do not operate in a manner that would cause undue harm or hazard to persons or property.  If you have questions, please contact the UAS Operations Management Team – UAS-ORP@PSU.EDU.

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

NOTE: If this was an approved Part 107 flight from the UAS Ops Management Team, Police Services should not interfere as they are notified of all approved part 107 flights on campus.  This is another reason why it is important to make sure you are notifying the UAS Ops Team if you want to operate on campus.
In the case that this still happens,

Calmly and safely return UAV to ground.  Ask if you can power off UAV and Remote Control before doing so.

  1. You should have your remote pilot certification, UAS Ops Approval Notice and any applicable FAA Waivers on hand to show them.
  2. Follow all directives provided by Police Services.  If they terminate flight, ground UAV for the remainder of operation.
  3. They may or may not write a report based on the incident at hand.  This report will most likely end up being reviewed by the UAS Ops Management Team.
  4. Provide a detailed incident report to the UAS Operations Management Team within 48 hours @ UAS-ORP@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?

Currently there are only 6 designated State parks where UAS 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.