16.75 – Unoccupied Aircraft Systems (“Drones”)

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Scope: NMSU System

Source: ARP Chapter 16 | Safety and Risk Management Uncategorized

Responsible Executive: Vice President Administration and Finance

Responsible Administrator:

Last Updated: 11/11/2022



Revision History:

11/01/2022 Provisional Amendment implemented by Chancellor
2017 Recompilation, formerly Rule 16.20
12/13/2016 Rule implemented by Chancellor and Administrative Council



The following regulations are established to provide mechanisms for the safe operation of UAS as part of academic, research, and public safety; to ensure the protection and safety of university students, employees, and guests; and to maintain privacy rights of those on university premises.



For purposes of this Rule, the following Definitions will apply:

  1. Drone: This is a lay term frequently used to describe an Unoccupied Aircraft System.
  2. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA): The federal body with licensing and regulation authority over operation of aircraft in public airspace, to include the registration and licensing of aircraft and Pilots.
  3. Pilot: The person responsible for all aspects of the flight, to include the control of the Unoccupied Aircraft System. The Pilot must have appropriate licensure as may be required by federal aviation laws, regulations, and rules.
  4. Unoccupied Aircraft System (UAS): This is the compilation of all people, parts, and equipment necessary to fly an unoccupied aircraft system. This includes the Pilot, spotters, remote control transmitters, collision avoidance sensors, and the actual aircraft. Both remotely operated fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft systems are included in this definition.



  1. Restrictions on Purchase of UAS with NMSU Funds: Purchases of UAS devices will be determined and approved by department head, and shall follow NMSU purchasing procedures. Individuals or departments, must ensure that UAS devices will be in compliance with all requirements that funding sources specify. All registrations submitted for aircraft purchased with university funds shall list the owner as “Board of Regents, New Mexico State University”. Regardless of the dollar amount of the purchase, the acquisition of an UAS with university funds must be reported to Environmental Health Safety and Risk Management (EHS&RM) in order to obtain registration and insurance for UAS device.
  2. Authority to Fly UAS: An Unoccupied Aircraft System shall not be flown from, land on, or be flown within, property or facilities owned or controlled by the Board of Regents unless it fits within one of the following authorized categories, and is flown in accordance with the criteria established.
    1. Academic programs as a student/participant: This category applies when the UAS is used in furtherance of teaching students enrolled in educational programs at the university. Students enrolled in these courses may be authorized by the appropriate faculty member or academic administrator to construct and/or to fly an unoccupied aircraft as an observed user in accordance with current FAA regulations. Students in classes utilizing UAS shall receive appropriate instruction on safe operation prior to being allowed to pilot an unoccupied aircraft. It is recommended that students learn how to adequately control an unoccupied aircraft inside an appropriate building or controlled flight area prior to being allowed to fly outside as part of the course. Indoor flights will be completed only with UAS under 0.55lbs. All Training activities (indoor or outdoor) will be under the direct supervision of a remote pilot certificate holder. Authorization for students to utilize UAS only extend to the specific class or program activities authorized, and do not grant a right to fly outside of those parameters. Any use outside of the original designated flight plan will require the completion of a new request for authorization.
    2. Teaching: Faculty utilizing UAS as part of their teaching duties (either to demonstrate to students, or to teach the students how to build or fly) must hold a Remote Pilot Certificate (Part 107 Certificate) through the Federal Aviation Administration appropriate to the aircraft being operated. If an unoccupied aircraft is flown inside a building, the faculty member does not need to have a license from the FAA, but must have demonstrated skill and proficiency in the safe operation of the unoccupied aircraft. If long term flights will be conducted over an area (such as an archeology dig) additional clearances can be sought. See Section D. below.
    3. Research: Researchers who operate UAS indoors must do so in a manner that ensures safety for anyone in the area and that does not create a hazard for life safety systems (e.g., fire sprinkler heads that might be hit and damaged). Researchers who operate UAS outdoors must have a Remote Pilot Certificate. Prior to utilizing UAS in research activities, written authorization must be received from their respective Associate Dean of Research. Such authorization must be specific to the research project, and does not extend to other projects or uses.
    4. Public Safety: UAS may be utilized by properly trained and credentialed members of the university police and fire departments when used to ensure public safety, manage an emergency, or investigate an incident. During any such operations, safeguards shall be in place to ensure the safety of those in the area, as well as to minimize violations of privacy. Public safety personnel operating UAS on behalf of the university shall be required to complete an appropriate training program that has been vetted and approved by the EHS&RM or Physical Science Laboratory subject matter experts.
    5. Infrastructure Inspection: UAS may be utilized for the inspection of university facilities and infrastructure upon the written authorization of the Chief Facilities Officer, and in coordination with EHS&RM.  The safety and licensing requirements applicable to each circumstance must be met.
    6. Commercial: Commercial operation of UAS (where there is any form of financial remuneration or compensation as a result of the operation) may only take place when written permission has been granted by EHS&RM, any applicable campus organizations and/or the manager(s) of any facility where the flight operation will take place. All FAA requirements must be met prior to commercial flight being authorized.
    7. Recreation: Recreational use of UAS, other than as noted above for students/participants of a sanctioned university class or program, are not generally allowed on or over lands owned and controlled by the Board of Regents. A request for permission to fly recreationally for a single date may be made by submitting a request to EHS&RM UAS Coordinator, who will coordinate with the appropriate university officials to review the request. Individuals flying under such permission are restricted to the scope and terms of the authorization, and may be required to demonstrate proficiency, insurance coverage, air worthiness, and a safety plan prior to being allowed to conduct a flight.
    8. Other: Any request not applicable for one of the above categories. If flight needed does not meet one of the above categories a request for flight can be submitted through the UAS Flight Request Form. UAS operations must meet all FAA regulations for approval.
  3. Procedure to Request Flight Authorization: A request to fly an UAS for one of the above reasons must be made to EHS&RM, utilizing the UAS Flight Request Form. This is in addition to any necessary requirements noted for the specific categories. Requests should be made at least 3-10 business days prior to the planned activity. Flights will be placed in a tiered category dependent upon risk assessment of planned flight(s). This will impact the length of time an activity can request for a flight operation. All individuals flying on behalf of NMSU or on NMSU property, will need to attend an initial UAS training workshop for familiarization of NMSU procedures and to demonstrate flight proficiency. This is required prior to any flight. Upon receipt of UAS Flight Request Form, EHS&RM will coordinate with the appropriate university officials to review the request for approval.
  4. Coordination with PSL Required to Apply to FAA for a Certificate of Authorization (COA): When a certificate of authorization from the FAA may be necessary for a long term or permanent project, it shall be coordinated with the Physical Science Laboratory. No application may be submitted to the FAA on behalf of the university nor any of its subunits unless such coordination has taken place and approval for the application has been received. To help determine if a COA is needed contact EHS&RM to coordinate with PSL.
  5. Exceptions to Application of this Rule: Requests for any exception from this Rule’s requirements may be submitted in writing to UAS EHS&RM, who will grant or deny the request in a letter decision to the requesting party, after consultation with the appropriate administrators. Requests will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Exception requests which are granted will be for a specific period of time, and will be documented. The Determination issued by UAS Coordinator EHS&RM may be appealed in writing to the Vice Chancellor, who will issue a final Decision after review of the written materials submitted by the requesting party and EHS&RM.