Use of Unmanned Aerial Systems

I. Scope

George Mason University supports the safe use of unmanned aircraft systems and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAS), also known as drones. This policy applies to all George Mason University employees, students, university contractors, and visitors operating UAS on property owned, leased, or controlled by George Mason University for recreational, university-sponsored, or university-related activities. The policy also applies to the operation of UAS by students, faculty, and staff regardless of location when UAS is used for university-sponsored or university-related activities within the United States.

II. Policy Statement

UAS may not be operated from, on, or over university facilities or property without advance approval from the Environmental Health and Safety Office (EHS). Operation of UAS shall only be permitted when prior approval has been granted, and when flight will not interfere with the academic enclave. In accordance with Federal Aviation Administration Regulations and university restrictions, outdoor operation of UAS on the Arlington or Fairfax Campuses is prohibited.

Authorization by the FAA to operate a UAS does not constitute permission from the university. Certificates of Authorization issued by the FAA to UAS operators shall only be used in accordance with the terms under which they were issued and in conjunction with university approval.

III. Definitions

Observers: means individuals assigned by the Pilot to observe the perimeter of the active flight environment and its surroundings.

Operational Session: means a 24-hour period of time during which at least one UAS flight is attempted or completed.  Multiple consecutive flights in the same location over the course of several hours, but not more than 24 consecutive hours, qualify as a single operational session.

Pilot: means any individual(s) that operate or control the drone before, during, and after operation.

Unmanned Aerial System (UAS): means unmanned aircraft and all of the associated support equipment, control station, data links, telemetry, communications and navigation equipment, etc., necessary to operate the unmanned aircraft.

IV. Compliance

1. Approval to Operate UAS on or from university property:

a. UAS operators must submit a Application for Approval to Operate Unmanned Aerial System to EHS.

b. EHS will review the request for compliance with FAA regulations and university policies.

c. University approval to operate a UAS is valid for a specific operational session. Permission is non-transferable and may be withdrawn at any time.

d. If approval is not granted, UAS operation is prohibited. Individuals who operate UAS without approval will be reported to the FAA when operation does not conform to federal regulations.

2. Individuals or Entities granted permission to operate a UAS must:

a. Adhere to all applicable FAA rules and regulations;

b. Acknowledge that operations will be conducted under 14 CFR Part 107 (Operations and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems); or Section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, covering education or hobbyist use of UAS;

c. Register the UAS with the FAA and assure it is appropriately labeled with the registration number. This applies to all UAS weighing more than 0.55 pounds and less than 55 pounds. This weight limit is inclusive of everything on board or attached to the UAS at time of takeoff. Registration may be completed online at or via the paper-based registration process;

d. Comply with all applicable FAA regulations, as well as any other applicable federal, state, and local laws;

e. Develop and administer internal safety procedures for UAS operation. These procedures shall at a minimum require: pre- and post-flight airworthiness inspections of all components of UAS and training self-certification records for all UAS Pilots, and Observers; and

f. Maintain copies of the Unmanned Aerial System Training Self-Certification Statement form on file for each Pilot and Observer for the duration of UAS operation. Completed copies need not be submitted to EHS unless requested.

3. All Pilots of UAS must observe the following:

a. Have sufficient training in the safe operation of UAS to fulfill all university and FAA requirements;

b. Complete the applicable section(s) of the Unmanned Aerial System Training Self-Certification Statement form; and,

4. The Pilot shall:

a. Be solely responsible for the safe operation of the UAS;

b. Demonstrate ability to control the UAS during flight, utilize at least one flight observer, and complete at least three safe take-offs and landings under qualified observation;

c. Complete the pre- and post-flight steps outlined in the Unmanned Aerial System Flight Safety Checklist for each attempted flight, and the pre- and post-operations steps for each operational session. The checklist is not intended as a record-keeping form and should not be submitted to EHS; and,

d. Be responsible for all expenses related to facility rental, use, and any damages or claims resulting from UAS operations.

5. Observers must:

a. Complete the applicable section(s) of the Unmanned Aerial System Training Self-Certification Statement form;

b. Observe the perimeter of the active flight environment and its surroundings for possible intrusion by pedestrians, vehicles, birds or other aircraft of any kind; and,

c. Maintain direct communications with the Pilot while any UAS are aloft.

Failure to comply with these safety procedures, or failure to comply with a request for Pilot or Observer self-certification records in a timely manner, will result in revocation of permission to operate UAS.  Operators who compromise public safety will be notified and disciplined in accordance with University Policy 1406: Environmental Health and Safety.

V. Forms

Application for Approval to Operate Unmanned Aerial Systems

Unmanned Aerial System Training Self-Certification Statement

Unmanned Aerial System Flight Safety Checklist

VI. Dates:

A. Effective Date:

This policy will become effective upon the date of approval by the Senior Vice President for Administration and Finance and the Provost and Executive Vice President.

B. Date of Most Recent Review:


 VII. Timetable for Review

This policy, and any related procedures, shall be reviewed every two years or more frequently as needed.

VIII. Signatures



Senior Vice President for Administration and Finance


Provost and Executive Vice President


Date Approved: April 4, 2017