Unmanned Aircraft Systems (Drones)

Interim Policy and Procedures on Unmanned Aircraft Systems—UAS—(Including “Drones” and Model Aircraft)

  • Issue dateNovember 1, 2016
  • Responsible officerDean, College of Engineering and Applied Sciences

I. Scope

This policy applies to all Western Michigan University employees and students operating unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), including drones and model aircraft in any location as part of their University employment or as part of University activities, the operation by any person of UAS or model aircraft on or above Western Michigan University property, and to the purchase of UAS with funding through Western Michigan University, including university accounts, and grants.

II. Definitions

An Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) means an unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds on takeoff, including everything that is on board or otherwise attached to the aircraft that is not operated exclusively for recreational purposes.

A Model Aircraft is an aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds that is operated exclusively for recreational purposes.

A Remote Pilot in Command is an individual who has received a Remote Pilot Certification from the FAA.

III. Policy Statement

The operation of UAS and model aircraft is regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and relevant state law. This policy ensures compliance with those legal obligations and reduces risks to safety, security and privacy.  This Interim Policy shall remain in effect until replaced by a permanent policy or rescinded.

IV. Procedure for Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems, Including Drones and Model Aircraft

  1. All individuals covered by the scope of this Policy must comply with all applicable FAA regulations, state and federal laws, and university policies.
  2. Flight operations of any UAS or model aircraft over lands governed by WMU, and any flight operations of WMU sponsored or controlled UAS over lands not governed by WMU, shall require the prior filing and written approval of an operating plan with the UAS Review Board.
  3. The operation of a UAS or model aircraft by a third party or hobbyist over University property must be under an agreement which holds the University harmless from any resulting claims or harm to individuals and damage to University property and provides insurance as required by Director of Business Services.
  4. In operating a UAS for purposes of recording or transmitting visual images, operators must take all reasonable measures to avoid the invasion of areas normally considered private.
  5. Use of UAS must comply with any other applicable University policies.

Operators are reminded that the majority of the Kalamazoo campus of WMU is within the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport (KAZO) Class D airspace and underneath the KAZO Terminal Radar Service Area. Thus, FAA regulations require notification to and approval by the controlling agency prior to any flight operations and may be subject to additional restrictions.  Operators must demonstrate that such approval has been granted.

The following operational rules apply to the use of all UAS and model aircraft:

  • UAS must weigh less than 55 pounds; UAS and model aircraft that weigh over 55 pounds are strictly prohibited under this Policy
  • UAS must be in visual line of sight of the remote pilot in command
  • UAS must be visible to the operator with no assistance other than corrective lenses
  • UAS may not fly over people
  • UAS may be operated in daylight only
  • UAS must yield right of way to other aircraft
  • UAS maximum speed 100 mph/87 knots
  • UAS maximum height of 400 feet
  • UAS minimum visibility 3 miles from point of control
  • UAS must operate with permission of Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport Air Traffic Control
  • A remote pilot in command may not command more than one UAS
  • A remote pilot in command may not operate a UAS from a moving aircraft
  • A remote pilot in command may operate a UAS from a moving vehicle only in sparsely populated area
  • Reckless operation of a UAS is prohibited
  • A UAS may have no hazardous material on board
  • The remote pilot in command must inspect UAS prior to operation to ensure safe working order
  • The remote pilot in command may not operate a UAS if physical or mental condition prevents safe operation
  • A UAS may carry an object if it does not affect flight operations and the entire UAS with they object weighs less than 55 pounds
  • A UAS must be operated by an FAA approved remote pilot in command
  • The remote pilot in command must comply with all FAA requirements associated with the position
  • Use of model aircraft that are flown for hobby and recreational purposes must be approved by the UAS Review Board or the Responsible Office.
  • Model aircraft that weigh more than .55 pounds requires FAA registration.  

In the event any use of a UAS deviates from any of the above limitation, the UAS operator will need to obtain a Certificate of Authorization from the FAA for the deviation.  

No University funds from any source may be used to purchase a UAS without prior approval of the UAS Review Board

The UAS Review Board

The UAS Review Board shall meet from time to time to consider UAS requests and shall consist of:

  • Dean of the College of Engineering and Applies Sciences or designee (chair, ex officio)
  • The Vice President for Research or designee
  • Dean of the College of Aviation or designee
  • A representative of the Office of the General Counsel
  • The WMU Chief of Public Safety or designee
  • A college dean appointed by the Provost or designee
  • The faculty advisor to the WMU chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). In the absence of a WMU AIAA student chapter, a faculty representative shall be designated from within the Aerospace Engineering faculty by the Dean of College of Engineering.
  • One additional faculty representative designated by the University
  • One student member of the WMU chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics as designated by the University. In the absence of a WMU AIAA student chapter, a student will be designated by the University. 

Operating plans submitted to the UAS Review Board shall include:

  • Equipment to be used
  • Dates, and times
  • Locale(s), including the resident or temporary populations therein
  • Purpose(s) of the operation
  • The identity of pilot(s) or other remote operator(s)
  • All forms of data (including imagery) to be collected
  • Current status of any required licenses or permissions
  • Provisions for security of the equipment, both during and outside of operation, and of any sensitive data collected.

For approval of an operating plan by the UAS Review Board:

  • The UAS Review Board may modify a plan for approval
  • The plan must be forthcoming and complete in its content
  • The envisioned operation must comply with applicable laws, government regulations, and other University policies, including but not limited to the Policy on Unmanned Aircraft
  • The envisioned operation must not pose an unacceptable threat to health, safety, privacy, or the environment, either in an absolute sense or compared to other methods of obtaining the desired information, and
  • The envisioned operation must be judged by the UAS Board to be in the best interest of the public and the University.

The UAS Review Board shall develop internal procedures for review of operating plans including expedited review for Plans intended to address short-lived phenomena (e.g., flooding).

Requests for UAS Review Board action may be made by notice to the Dean of the College of Engineering.

Appointments shall be for one-year terms, and may be renewed. There is no limit on the number of terms that can be served.

When the UAS Review Board agenda items implicate issues falling under the purview of another regulatory unit (such as the university Human Subjects in Research Board), the Board chair may invite a representative from that unit to attend Board meetings in an ex officio capacity. Such invitation is in the interest of minimizing delays in the review of proposals, acquisitions, or operating plans.

V. Sanctions

Any violations of university policies by an individual will be dealt with in accordance with applicable university policies and procedures, which may include disciplinary actions up to and including termination from the University. Students may be sanctioned for such violations in accordance with the Student Code. Legal prohibitions regarding physical presence on campus/trespassing and other legal action may also be pursued against third parties that operate UAS in violation of this policy.

Approved by SLT and President: October 24, 2016