University updates unmanned aircraft policy

Mississippi’s leading research university has updated its unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and model aircraft policy.

According to Mississippi State’s chief research officer, the purpose of the new policy is to ensure that UAS and model aircraft are acquired and operated efficiently, safely and ethically, and in compliance with applicable laws and other university policies and procedures.

“This updated policy clearly defines acceptable usage of UAS and model aircraft on university property,” said David Shaw, vice president for research and economic development at MSU.

Mississippi State leads the Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence (ASSURE) -- the Federal Aviation Authority’s national center of excellence for UAS research.

Experts from ASSURE helped craft the new policy, Shaw said.

“This policy is based on best practices and current law, and we are confident that it addresses many of the questions and concerns people have about unmanned aircraft,” he explained.

The policy covers operation of UAS, including model aircraft, by employees, students and third parties as part of a university program or activity; operations by any person on or above MSU-owned or -controlled property; and purchase of UAS with MSU funds, including appropriated, self-generated, sponsored research funds, or funds from affiliated entities.

The policy includes a list of generally applicable UAS and model aircraft policies and procedures, including:

-- Anyone operating an unmanned aircraft is responsible for complying with FAA regulations and notices, state and federal laws, and MSU policy.

-- Any MSU unit, employee or student who desires to operate a UAS as part of their employment or for a university program or activity must first obtain an FAA Certificate of Authorization (COA) or 333 Exemption. Copies of all COAs and exemptions should be filed with officials at Raspet Flight Research Laboratory (RFRL) prior to operation.

-- Anyone, including vendors and other third parties, wishing to use a UAS for anything other than recreational purposes above MSU property must first receive written approval from the RFRL UAS safety officer, sign a liability waiver, and provide insurance as required.

-- Unmanned aircraft may not be used to observe or record in areas where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy — including restrooms, locker rooms, residential rooms, dressing rooms and health treatment rooms — or near activities that may be closed to the public, including sports team practices.

-- All UAS and model aircraft safety incidents must by reported to the RFRL UAS safety officer immediately, but no later than 24 hours after an incident has occurred.

The policy also details proper usage of MSU-operated unmanned aircraft, acquisition of UAS by university personnel, and acceptable model aircraft operations for recreational use.

“I encourage anyone with an interest in operating unmanned aircraft on campus to review this policy carefully,” Shaw said.

The policy is posted online at

For additional information or for any questions about UAS operations at Mississippi State, contact RFRL Director Dallas Brooks at

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at

Jim Laird | Public Affairs

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