Wisconsin Geospatial News

UW-Madison implements drone policy

UW-Madison has established a new policy for the use of aerial drones (unamanned aircraft, also known as UAS and UAV) on UW-Madison property or where university-affiliated activities occur. Administration of the policy is coordinated through the Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration, with support from University Relations, University Communications, the Office of Legal Affairs, Facilities Planning and Management, Risk Management, the UW-Madison Police Department, and University Marketing.

The policy applies to commercial and noncommercial drone use by staff, faculty, students, visitors, agencies, businesses, clubs/organizations, and individuals.

The policy stipulates that drones may not be operated:

  • in a way that creates a hazard to university property or the community;
  • in a way that disrupts instruction, studying, or facility use;
  • inside university buildings;
  • above public open-air events, public spaces, public venues, or thoroughfares.

In addition, university commercial use policies must be followed (including written permission) if drones are being used to obtain photos, video, or sound for commercial purposes.

Student use of drones must be granted by university officials, and supervised by faculty or staff in the case of research and teaching. Insurance coverage may also be required. Likewise, contractors must adhere to all campus policies including approval and insurance.

The policy also notes that the drone must be operated in a manner that adheres to federal and state law and guidelines. Members of the higher education community may apply for a waiver or certificate of authorization (COA) from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to operate drones. Commercial use of drones (including non-university entities interested in operating drones on campus property) is currently barred by the FAA, except if an exception has been granted.

This is not a full list of regulations. Full details of the policy can be viewed here

See the FAA website for more information on drone regulations in the US. 

Wisconsin has also recently passed a drone law thatadds additional restrictions on drone use.

It will be interesting to see if other academic institutions in the state implement similar policies, especially given the interest in incorporating drones into teaching and research at a number of these institutions. Please contact me if you have information on drone policies at your institution.