Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems on University Campus and Property
The operation of an unmanned aircraft system (UAS), a drone, is regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). As a private institution, Columbia University establishes the following policy to govern the operation by any person of a UAS from or above the University's campuses or properties. This policy extends to any and all property owned, rented, leased, and controlled by The Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York. **Please note that, subject to further legislation, NYC law currently prohibits flying drones in NYC except in certain emergency or other limited circumstances. Unless and until NYC law changes and pursuant to this policy, drone use cannot be approved on CU locations in NYC.**
Reason(s) for the Policy
This policy is established to require and ensure compliance with ALL applicable laws, reduce safety risks, and preserve the security and privacy of members of the Columbia University community.
Primary Guidance to Which This Policy Responds
This policy primarily responds to FAA guidelines and requirements that promote the safe and responsible use of unmanned aircraft.
Responsible University Office & Officer
Columbia University Facilities and Operations is responsible for establishing this policy. The Department of Public Safety is responsible for enforcing the policy and the Vice President for Public Safety is the responsible officer.
Who is Governed by This Policy
All faculty, employees, students, contractors, volunteers, and the general public present on Columbia University property are governed by this policy.
Who Should Know This Policy
Any person who may be involved in operating a UAS from or above the University's campuses or properties should know about this policy.
Exclusions & Special Situations
The Department of Public Safety maintains the authority to "ground" or suspend operations of any UAS that is not compliant with FAA regulations, this policy, or presents a danger to University property or to the University community.
Any use of a UAS from or over the campus or inside a campus building is strictly prohibited except under the following circumstances.
Educational or Research Use
- The use of drones is permitted only for educational or research purposes.
- Must obtain prior approval from the Department of Public Safety at least 48 hours prior to the use of the UAS.
- Must provide date/time, purpose, and length of UAS operations, as well as the area of the campus where the UAS will be used.
- Must comply with all Federal, State and City laws.
- Must have experience in operating the UAS and operate them in a responsible manner.
- Must not operate over areas of public assembly, stadium, or areas of construction.
- Must not photograph, video, or monitor areas where other members of the University community or members of the general public would have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
Any violations of law (trespassing, illegal surveillance, reckless endangerment) or violations of University policies may subject the individual(s) to both criminal and/or disciplinary action. Students of the Columbia University community who violate this policy will be subject to Dean's Discipline as stated under the Standards and Discipline for student conduct and community standards. Damages/injuries occurring to University property or individuals will be the responsibility of the UAS operator.
Hobby or Recreational Use:
- The use of drones for hobby or recreational use on Columbia University property is not permitted.
Civil Operations/Commercial Use:
- All civil (commercial, contract, or University owned) operated UAS's must comply with all federal (FAA), state, and local laws.
- Must obtain prior approval from the Department of Public Safety at least 48 hours in advance of the proposed use of the UAS.
- A University owned or commercial UAS must comply with FAA regulations by obtaining and producing a "333 Exemption" or a "Special Airworthiness Certificate" prior to use on the campus. (See www.faa.gov)
- The use of commercially owned Unmanned Aircraft Systems a/k/a Drones (for hire or otherwise) is permitted only for educational or research purposes. A UAS operator must provide a certificate of insurance naming The Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York as an additional insured with a minimum of $5 million in general liability insurance written on an occurrence basis. Contact the Risk Management Department for further details.
- A commercially owned (University or contract) operator must file a "flight plan" including date, time, and duration of flight and operational area, with the Department of Public Safety 48 hours prior to commencing the UAS flight.
- A contract operator must be accompanied by a representative of the University at all times.
- The UAS must be operated in a responsible manner.
- The UAS may not operate over areas of public assembly, stadium, or populated areas.
- The UAS is not permitted to photograph, video, or monitor areas of the University where other members of the University community would have a reasonable expectation of privacy. (See above).
Any violations of law (trespassing, illegal surveillance, reckless endangerment) or violations of University policies may subject the individual to both criminal and/or disciplinary action. Students of the Columbia University community who violate this policy will be subject to Dean's Discipline as stated under the Standards and Discipline for student conduct and community standards. Damages/injuries occurring to University property or individuals will be the responsibility of the UAS operator.
The FAA classifies UAS use as one of three types:
- Public - Governmental
- Civil Operations - Non-Governmental
- Model Aircraft - Hobby or recreation only
Effective December 21, 2015, the FAA began a registration process for all UAS devices weighing between 0.55 pounds and 55 pounds that are used for hobby or recreational purposes. The owner must be 13 years of age or older and a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident. Additional information and the on-line registration may be obtained at the Federal Aviation Administration's FAADroneZone.
Failure to register:
Civil and criminal penalties may apply for failure to register a UAS. Those penalties are on a sliding scale based on the circumstances of the situation and may include a formal warning to monetary fines and/or prosecution.
Using a UAS to take photos/videos for personal use is recreational. Using the same device to take photos/videos for compensation or sale is commercial use; commercial use requires an FAA Sec. 333 Exemption or a Special Airworthiness Certificate. A Certification of Waiver or Certificate of Authorization means an FAA grant of approval for a specific unmanned operation. (See www.faa.gov)
Please visit the Risk Management website for insurance and indemnification requirements for commercial use of drones on campus and all property owned, rented, leased or controlled by the Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York.