Drones Policy

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Risk Management

General Description


To define the requirements for the use of Drones, also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and/or Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs), in compliance with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and all applicable federal, state and local laws. 


Drones, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), and Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs), are defined as any contrivance invented, used or designed to navigate or fly in the air that is operated without the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the aircraft. The scope of this policy applies to, but may not be limited to, the operation on of Drones, UAVs, or UASs on Trinity University property, University controlled property, or for University-affiliated events held elsewhere. All Drones, UAVs and UASs must be registered through the Academic Technology (AT) and approved by the Trinity University Chief of Police. 


Policy Content
To ensure the safety and privacy rights of individuals and ensure the legal operation of Drones, UAVs and UASs on the Trinity University campus, on University controlled property, or at University-affiliated events held elsewhere, the use of all Drones, UAVs and UASs must be approved by the Trinity University Chief of Police. 
The FAA is responsible for regulating and overseeing the use of all aircraft, to include Drones, UAVs, and UASs, hereinafter collectively referred to as Drones, and recognizes that Drones may be used for recreational/hobby purposes or for commercial use. 

The FAA allows recreational use of Drones within statutory parameters. All Trinity University community members are personally responsible for compliance with FAA regulations, state and federal laws, and university policies. Effective Dec. 21, 2015, the FAA announced new regulations requiring all owners of Drones to register their Drone on the FAA website. This online registration requirement applies to all individual hobbyist owners of small Drones weighing more than 0.55 pounds and less than 55 pounds (for drones over 55 pounds register here), including payloads such as on-board cameras. The cost of registration is $5.

The FAA considers non-recreational use of Drones commercial use and requires prior authorization through a Section 333 exemption. Institutional use of Drones can be considered commercial use and therefore may require an exemption.

In May, 2016, the FAA provided an Educational Use Clarification for institutional use of Drones. The clarification states that: 
  • Operators of Drones at educational institutions will be considered hobbyists if they are not compensated directly or indirectly for operating the aircraft. Faculty members are generally considered compensated, except for the example below.
  • Students conducting model aircraft operations to further their education at accredited educational institutions, such as using a Drone as part of the curricula for a principles of flight or television and film production course, will be classified as hobbyists.
  • Faculty teaching aviation-related courses at accredited institutions may assist students operating model aircraft for the course if the student maintains operational control of the aircraft.
Faculty member Drone operations outside of the exception above are considered commercial use and require completion of the Section 333 exemption.

The new Small UAS Rule effective August 29, 2016 requires: 
A Special Airworthiness Certificate for any civil (commercial) use of a Drone.
Appropriate Pilot Certification for any commercial or governmental operation of a Drone.
Commercial Drone operators must be at least 16 years old.

Failure to register an aircraft may result in regulatory and criminal sanctions. The FAA may assess civil penalties up to $27,500. Criminal penalties include fines of up to $250,000 and/or imprisonment for up to three years. 
In addition to the Registration, Exemption, and Certification requirements above, the following must be met for approved operation of a Drone. 
  1. May not be operated in any way that would create a public safety hazard, an undue hazard to property or privacy, or in such a way that unduly affects the environment of those working or living within a building, to those entering or exiting a building, or those moving about the property.
  2. Must be under the control of the operator at all times, remain within the line of sight of the operator, and flown only during daylight hours. Operators may operate only one Drone at a time.
  3. The Office of Risk Management and Insurance must be contacted if the operation will be under the control of a contractor or another third-party to ensure compliance with University contract, insurance, and other University policies. Contractors must complete and return the Contractor/Third Party Checklist for the Operation of a Drone.
  4. If will be used in support of research or teaching, the Faculty, Staff, or Research Associate must obtain approval from the Associate Vice President for Budget and Research prior to subsequent approval of the Trinity University Chief of Police.
  5. May not be operated above public open-air events (over crowds or sporting events), inside public venues, or above thoroughfares. Drones operated for commercial purposes may not be operated over any persons not directly participating in the operation, under a covered structure, or inside a covered stationary vehicle.
  6. Per FAA regulations, Drones should not exceed 7 pounds, may not exceed a flying height of 400 feet or be operated within a certain radius of any airport designated by the FAA without prior notice to the airport operator and air traffic controller by the owner. In San Antonio, Drones may not be operated within a 5 mile radius of the San Antonio International Airport without approval of the Airport Operator and the Air Traffic Controller.
  7. There may be Liability and Property Insurance considerations for bodily injury, personal injury, and property damage depending upon the size, weight, and flying altitude of the Drone; the purpose for its use; if it will be assembled, housed, or transported by Trinity University; privacy violations or other unlawful use. 
  8. The privacy rights of others must be given priority.
Please contact the Office of Risk Management and Insurance for further information at riskmanagement@trinity.edu or 999-8919.
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7/31/2019 4:53 PM
Jennifer Gilmore Adamo

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Enter Vice President(s) that are responsible for approving this document



Gary Logan
Vice President for Finance & Administration