REG 10.10.09 – Operation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems

Authority: Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation, Vice Chancellor for Information Technology

History: First Issued: July 21, 2015. Last Revised: October 9, 2023.

Related Policies:
NCSU POL10.00.01 – Patent and Tangible Research Policy

Additional References:
NC State Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Information
UAS Pilot Registration

Contact Info: Flight Operations Manager, Institute for Transportation Research and Education (ITRE), 919-515-8523, Assistant Vice Chancellor, Division of Academic and Student Affairs, 919-434-4167


Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) offer great potential as tools for research and teaching.  This regulation establishes a framework for identifying, managing, and mitigating risk when using UAS, in order to ensure compliance with all State and Federal laws and regulations, and in furtherance of NC State’s institutional goals and objectives.


When used in this regulation the following definitions shall apply:

2.1 “Departments and/or Units” include NC State colleges, departments, units, programs, centers and institutes, as well as their designated University employees.

2.2 “University Activity” means any activity or use by a NC State Department and Unit for the purpose of education, instruction, photography, research, or extension activities.

2.3 “Unmanned Aircraft” means a device used or intended to be used for flight in the air that has no onboard pilot.  Unmanned aircraft do not include balloons, rockets, or unpowered gliders.

2.4 “Unmanned Aircraft System” means an unmanned aircraft and associated elements including communication links and components that control the unmanned aircraft and are required for the pilot in command to operate safely and efficiently.

2.5 “University premises” means buildings or grounds owned, leased, operated, controlled or managed by NC State.


This regulation applies to all University Activities involving the use and operation of UAS.  This regulation also applies to individuals when flying UAS for hobby or recreational purposes on University premises.


4.1 Departments and Units Use of UAS

Because of the potential legal and risk management issues involved in operating UAS, and in order to comply with federal and state laws and regulations, all Departments and Units that intend to use UAS for University Activities shall comply with the following:

4.1.1 UAS Pilot Requirements

Individuals serving as pilots of UAS for a NC State Department or Unit (“University UAS Pilot”) must meet the following requirements:

  1. Approval by the Vice Chancellor or Dean having supervisory authority over the Department or Unit to serve as a University UAS Pilot;
  2. Registration as a University UAS Pilot at Drone Pilot Registration Form;
  3. Obtained a Remote Pilot Certificate and Fed Airmen Cert number;
  4. Passed NC UAS knowledge test and obtained NC UAS Operator Permit; and
  5. Have at least five (5) hours of UAS flight experience

4.1.2 Notification and Approval

  1. A written summary of the proposed activities (the “Flight Plan”) must be submitted at least three (3) days prior to the date of the first intended use or, if three days is not possible, as soon as reasonably practicable before conducting the University Activity. Any substantial change to these proposed activities (e.g., change in type of aircraft, location, or activities conducted) shall require additional notification.
  2. The Flight Plan can be submitted at Drone Pilot Registration Form.
  3. Departments and Units conducting UAS Activities must also provide advance notification to the responsible NC State administrator for the location where the activities will occur.
  4. Upon submission, the proposed UAS use will be reviewed for compliance with applicable University policies, as well as for any risk management concerns. If there are any concerns or issues about the proposed UAS activities, the Department or Unit will be contacted by the appropriate University unit (such as Risk Management, Police, ITRE, or Office of Research and Innovation) for further discussion.  After review, the Department or Unit will receive notification if the proposed activities are approved.
  5. All activities must be conducted in compliance with Federal and State laws, and applicable University policies.

4.1.3 UAS Insurance

NC State Departments and Units must obtain UAS insurance for its UAS that would cover the Department or Unit’s proposed activity.  Departments and Units should contact NC State’s Insurance and Risk Management Office in order to obtain this insurance.

4.2 Compliance and Oversight

4.2.1 The Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation and the Vice Chancellor for Information Technology (collectively “Vice Chancellors”) shall have primary, joint oversight of all operations of UAS for University Activities.  The Vice Chancellors may designate another NC State employee or unit (the “Designee”) to monitor compliance and provide administration for the operation of UAS at NC State. The Designee shall provide a report each year to the Vice Chancellors on the status of the university UAS compliance and operations.

4.2.2 The Vice Chancellors shall appoint a UAS Advisory Group consisting of at least one representative from the College of Engineering, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, University Police, Institute for Transportation Research and Education, and the Director, Insurance and Risk Management as members, which shall serve as an advisory body to the Vice Chancellors on University UAS Activities. The Advisory Group shall be responsible for reviewing and recommending rules, procedures and standards for UAS operation to the Vice Chancellors.

4.2.3 In situations where a University UAS activity is to be conducted in airspace over land not owned or controlled by NC State, a Memorandum of Understanding between the university and the landowner must be negotiated and signed prior to UAS use.

4.2.4 A safety risk assessment must be conducted by the Department or Unit before any UAS Activity.  All UAS incidents must be reported to the Department Head, Unit Director, or Dean of the applicable college, as well to the Director, Insurance and Risk Management, within twenty-four (24) hours after an incident has occurred.


5.1 UAS may only be used by individuals for hobby or recreational purposes (“recreational flyers”) only in designated campus locations or spaces.  The following list provides the designated areas for recreational flyers at NC State:  Drone Pilot Registration FormRecreational flyers must register their use of UAS before participating in the activity.

5.2 Unless identified as a designated area, no recreational flyer shall operate a UAS on, in or over any University Premises.


Unless approved or operated in an identified and designated areas, no person shall operate a UAS on, in or over any University Premises. Individuals or companies desiring to operate UAS on university premises for commercial photography or filming purposes must contact University Communications prior to conducting any flights.