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Current Status: Active PolicyStat ID: 4473844

Unmanned Aircraft Systems Policy

Policy Statement

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill encourages the use of innovative forms of technology such as Unmanned Aircraft Systems ("UAS") to achieve the University's goals of effectively communicating, researching, and educating. Laws, regulations, and best practices around UAS are evolving with this emerging technology. This policy seeks to ensure that any person using UAS on University property, or for University business purposes, complies with those legal obligations. Users of UAS on campus must exercise extreme caution, due to the University's proximity to Horace Williams Airport and regular flights by UNC Air Care helicopters.


Aircraft: Any contrivance used or designed for navigation of or flight in the air.

Model aircraft: Aircraft that is mechanically driven or launched into flight and is flown solely for hobby or recreation purposes and is not used for payment or benefit, directly or indirectly, by any person for the use of the aircraft or any media produced by the aircraft.

Unmanned Aircraft Systems ("UAS"): Commonly known as drones, aircraft and accompanying systems that are operated without the possibility of human intervention from within or on the aircraft. For purposes of this policy, UAS also include aircraft that meet the definition of model aircraft. The term UAS, as opposed to drone, is used throughout this policy as that is the term used in state and federal laws and regulations.


This policy applies to any use of UAS

  • For University operations, whether controlled by a University employee, hired contractor, or other person on behalf of the University
  • On University property, including use by third-parties not affiliated with the University and news media representatives

Reason for Policy

This policy establishes a mechanism for the use of UAS on campus or as used for University purposes.


Improper use of UAS may result in the violation of federal or state criminal laws.

Users of UAS who violate this policy may be issued a notice of trespass by UNC Police. Improper UAS use may also be a violation of University policy, subject to student or employee discipline.

Roles and Responsibilities

The University's Police Department enforces this policy and is responsible for compliance and enforcement.

The Office of University Counsel will assist University Departments in finding UAS laws and regulations for University-related UAS use outside of North Carolina.

Related Regulations, Statutes, and Related Policies

The North Carolina Department of Transportation's UAS Program website with links to the North Carolina laws and regulations. https://www.ncdot.gov/aviation/uas/

The Federal Aviation Administration's UAS Program website with links to the federal laws and regulations. https://www.faa.gov/uas/


To schedule a UAS flight on campus or make an inquiry concerning this policy call the office of the Chief of Police at (919) 966-5730.

Document History

  • Effective Date: November 1, 2016
  • Last Revised Date: November 1, 2016
  • Approving body: Chancellor's cabinet


UAS on University Property

The University requires all users of UAS to comply with the permitting requirements set forth by the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Both of these agencies require operators of UAS to obtain certain permits prior to operating a UAS. No UAS may be flown on University property unless the user has these permits. (Note: Recreational use of UAS on campus, even if legal "hobby" use under state and federal rules, is not permitted on University property.)

Persons wishing to operate UAS on University property must contact the University Police Department at least three days in advance of the desired flight time and provide the following: proof of any required FAA permit, proof of any required NCDOT permit, and a detailed flight plan to include specific time and specific location. All approved requests for UAS flights will be for a specific time and a specific location to ensure that multiple UAS are not sharing airspace. The University will also share flight times and locations with UNC Air Care to ensure there are no conflicts with flight paths of any helicopters to/from the UNC Health Care helipads. For all approved flights, the University Police Department will issue a UAS Flight Approval Permit that the operator is required to maintain for inspection at all times during the approved flight.

Flights approved on University property are restricted to uses that (1) meet the University's educational mission (2) serve the University's business needs, as determined by University officials, including University Police. Media outlets wishing to use UAS on campus may wish to contact University Communications for assistance in obtaining approval.

Users of UAS may be asked to stop the UAS flight or leave University property if they do not comply with this policy or are otherwise engaging in conduct that is considered harmful or dangerous to the University or persons on University property. Such conduct may include but is not limited to violations of the regulations established by the NCDOT and the FAA and provided in this policy.

UAS used on campus is limited to a total weight of 10 pounds, including any cameras or equipment mounted to the UAS.

UAS Off University Property

University Departments or employees wishing to fly UAS for University-related purposes off University property must have appropriate permits and property owner permission for the location of the flight. They must also comply with any federal, state, and local laws and regulations of the jurisdiction where the UAS flight is conducted.


All University users of UAS are expected to comply with all laws and regulations promulgated by the NCDOT and the FAA.
These laws and regulations include, but are not limited to,

  • No flying over people (Note: this severely limits UAS flights on campus)
  • No flying above 400 ft.
  • No flying outside daytime hours, defined as 30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset
  • No flying in an unsafe manner
  • No flying beyond the operator's ability to see the aircraft
  • No flying while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • No flying in a manner that interferes with air traffic
  • No flying close to another aircraft as to create a collision hazard
  • No photography of spaces where an individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy
All revision dates: 11/1/2016