Unmanned Aircraft Systems (Drone) Policy

UAS Flight Activity Approval Form

I Introduction 

This policy outlines requirements, guidelines and expectations for operating small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) on SUNY Cortland property, including property that is owned, rented or leased by the Cortland College Foundation, or Cortland Auxiliary Services. Effective implementation of this policy ensures that practices are observed to:

  1. Protect members of the campus community from injury and intrusion of privacy;
  2. Safeguard airspace; and
  3. Comply with applicable UAS laws and regulations.

Prior to operating a small UAS on university property, individuals must seek approval through the UAS Review Committee (UASRC). The UASRC consists of members from the following offices and departments: Environmental Health and Safety; Facilities Operations and Services; Purchasing; Risk Management; and University Police. Additionally, depending on the flight activity or circumstances, other campus offices will be included in the approval process.

Approval to operate a small UAS will only be granted for one of the following purposes:

  1. Commercial use in support of university administrative goals;
  2. Educational instruction;
  3. University-supported research, inspections and mapping; or
  4. Photography and videography for university's marketing use.

Note: use of small UAS for hobby or recreational purposes is currently not permitted. 

Small UAS operators are expected to observe the requirements outlined in this policy, and are responsible for complying with applicable federal, state and local regulations. For all small UAS operators, regulatory violations are subject to legal action.

Date of Inception:                               January 29, 2018
Latest Revision/Review Date:             October 18, 2019
Previous Revision/Review Date:         November 15, 2018

II References 

  • 14 CFR, Part 107 – Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems
  • Cortland County Local Law 8 of 2016 – Regulating the Use of Unmanned Aircraft System in Cortland County
  • SUNY Cortland’s Emergency Action Plans
  • SUNY Cortland’s Workers’ Compensation Injury/Illness Reporting Policy and Procedures

III Definitions

  • Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) – The regulatory authority in the United States for civil aviation.
  • Remote Pilot in Command – The person directly responsible for, and having the final authority as to the operation of the small unmanned aircraft system.

Note: The Pilot in Command must possess a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating.

  • Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) – Small UAS is used to refer to small unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds on takeoff. This includes everything that is on board or attached to the aircraft. For the purposes of the policy, small UAS and drones have the same meaning.
  • Small Unmanned Aircraft System Operator – For the purposes of this policy, the small UAS operator refers to owner of the aircraft. The operator of the small UAS is generally the remote pilot in command (see definition of remote pilot in command in this section).

IV Administrative Requirements and Small UAS Flight Approval 

Minimum Administrative Requirements

The following are required for UAS flight activities on university property:

  1. A completed UAS Flight Activity Approval Form.
  2. An up-to-date FAA-issued remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating.

Note: other individuals may manipulate the flight controls of a small UAS; however, these individuals must be under the direct supervision of the small UAS operator (i.e., remote pilot in command).

  1. Proof of UAS registration.
  2. Aircraft Liability Insurance with limits no less than two million dollars per claim and two million dollars in the aggregate. Such policy shall name the State University of New York as an additional insured and shall designate the State University of New York as the loss payee. Moreover, depending on the circumstances, Workers Compensation and Disability Benefits Coverage and Business Automotive Liability Insurance may also be
  3. A written safety plan or program. This document should outline protocol for safe small UAS operation, including how accidents and emergencies will be addressed. Information that is required in a safety plan or program is discussed further in Section V.
  4. A map that outlines flight

Note: the approval process for flight activity is discussed further in the following sub-heading.

Application for UAS Flight Activities

At a minimum of 14 days prior to flight activities, small UAS operators must submit a UAS Flight Activity Approval Form and other supporting documentation. The Form and supporting documents will then be forward to other members of the UASRC. 

Information within the form and supporting documentation include:

  1. An FAA-issued remote pilot certificate with a small UAS
  2. UAS model number, weight and FAA registration number.

           Note: proof of FAA UAS registration should be provided.

  1. Identity of the pilot in command, and other remote operators, if applicable.
  2. Planned date(s) of operation.
  3. Specific purpose of operation.
  4. Location(s) of operation, including a map(s).
  5. The nature of data or imagery to be collected.
  6. Proof of insurance.
  7. A written safety plan (see Section V).
  8. Completed W9 Form
  9. Completed CE 200 Form
  10. Verification the Cortland County Airport has been notified of the flight plans, including dates and times of operation. UAS operators must contact the airport at least one day before flight activities.

Note: The date and time the airport was contacted will be specified by the UAS operator in Section III of the Flight Activity Approval Form, after the form is approved.

For educational instruction, the SUNY Cortland faculty or staff member is responsible for submitting the UAS Fight Activity Form and other supporting documentations.

The form and supporting documentation will be reviewed once received. If all components within application are satisfactory, a member of the UASRC will approve the form, and return it to the applicant via email (Note: additional requirements, if applicable, will be specified on the approval form). If the application is not satisfactory, it will be returned to the applicant with the reason(s) for disapproval specified. In instances where an application lacks certain information, small UAS operators may re-submit the updated application and supporting documentation to the UASRC. Otherwise, decisions to disapprove an application are final. 

Approval to operate a small UAS may be for a single flight, or blanket approval. A blanket approval is granted for certain educational instruction, or other university-supported efforts related to research, inspections and mapping. Moreover, a blanket approval will support flight activities for a specified time range but will not exceed one year. In instances where a blanket approval is granted, small UAS operators must contact the Cortland County airport before each flight event.

V Other Small UAS Requirements 

Guidelines Written Safety Plan

As outlined in Section IV, all small UAS operators are expected to have a written safety plan. The safety plan will be submitted to the UASRC with the UAS Fight Activity Approval Form. At a minimum, the safety plan must specify:

  1. Provisions for conducting an inspection of the small UAS prior to flight activities. Inspection checklist items are identified in Section VI
  2. Conditions for safe flight activities, including personal protective equipment, if required.
  3. Protocol for responding to emergencies and injuries. Note: campus personnel will adhere to requirements as outlined in the following campus documents: 1) Emergency Action Plans; and 2) Workers’ Compensation Injury/Illness Reporting Policy and Procedures.

If it is applicable, the safety plan must be reviewed with participants before the flight activity.

Minimum Requirements and Guidelines for Safe Small UAS Operation 

In addition to adhering to stipulations within the UAS Flight Activity Approval Form, UAS operators are expected to observe FAA regulations. Additionally, participants in flight activities are expected to observe requirements that are specified in the written safety plan.

The requirements and guidelines specified in this sub-section are not intended to be all- inclusive. The following represent minimum requirements and guidelines for safe aircraft operation once the UAS Flight Activity Approval is approved.

  1. At least one day before flight activities, the UAS operator must contact the Cortland County Airport to specify flight plans. Flight location(s), date(s) and time(s) should be provided. The contact number for the Cortland County Airport is 607-745-5872.

Note: Airport contact verification should be identified.

  1. The remote pilot in command or small UAS operator must be designated prior to flight activities. This person is directly responsible for the operation of the aircraft.
  2. Prior to flight activities, the remote pilot in command must assess: 1) local weather conditions; 2) local airspace and flight restrictions; 3) locations of individuals and property; and 4) other ground hazards.
  3. To ensure the integrity of the aircraft and associated equipment, a pre-flight inspection must be conducted. Deficiencies that are identified must be corrected before flight activities:

Note: important checklist items are summarized in Section VI.

  1. No person may manipulate the flight controls of the aircraft unless: 1) that person has a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating; or 2) that person is under the direct supervision of the remote pilot in command, and the remote pilot in command has the ability to immediately take direct control of the aircraft.
  2. The remote pilot in command, the person manipulating the flight controls of the aircraft, and the visual observer, if used, must be able to see the aircraft for the duration of flight activities in order to: 1) know the aircraft’s location; 2) determine the aircraft’s attitude, altitude and direction of flight; 3) observe the airspace for other air traffic and hazards; and 4) determine the aircraft does not endanger life or property.

Note: The conditions must be performed with vision that is unaided by any device other than corrective lenses.

  1. If a visual observer is used during flight activities, the remote pilot in command, the person manipulating the flight controls of the aircraft, and the visual observer must: 1) maintain effective communication with each other at all times; 2) coordinate scanning the airspace for potential hazards; and 3) maintain position awareness.
  2. An individual may not operate or act as a remote pilot in command in operation of more than one aircraft at the same time. Additionally, a visual observer must not execute duties for more than one aircraft at the same time.
  3. The UAS Request for Permission Form must be available during flight activities.
  4. If it is applicable, the safety plan must be reviewed with event participants prior to flight activities.
  5. A hard hat and safety eyewear must be worn by participants in flight activities.
  6. Aircraft may only be operated during daylight hours.

Note: Exceptions for operating aircraft during twilight hours are identified in 14 CFR, Part 107.29.

  1. Aircraft may not be operated over another person unless that person is: 1) participating in the operation of the aircraft; or 2) located under a covered structure or within a stationary vehicle that can provide sufficient impact protection.

Note: There is a Cortland County law that specifies restrictions involving flight activities over stadiums and mass gatherings.

  1. Aircraft may not take photographs that invade the privacy of individuals.
  2. All groundspeed, altitude and boundary limitations as specified in 14 CFR, Part 107.51 must be observed during flight activities.
  3. UAS operators must immediately report the following aircraft-related incidents to the EH&S Office and University Police: 1) injuries; 2) fatalities; and 3) property damage.
  4. SUNY Cortland employees must complete an Employee Injury, Illness Medical Emergency Report (Form WC-1) for injuries that occur during flight activities.

VI Small UAS Preflight Inspection Checklist

Small UAS operators should conduct preflight inspections in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions, if applicable. The checklist items in this section represent minimum preflight inspection expectations. When deficiencies are identified, appropriate corrective action must be implemented before flight activities take place.

Preflight inspection checklist

Checklist Items



1. Are registration markings affixed to the UAS and are they legible?



2. Is scheduled maintenance up-to-date as specified by the manufacturer?



3. Are the UAS and associated components in good working condition?



4. Is auxiliary equipment securely attached to the UAS?



5. Have UAS communication links been verified?



6. Has the UAS compass been calibrated?



7. Is the type of fuel used for the UAS correct and is fuel quantity sufficient for

the duration of flight activities?



8. Are battery levels sufficient?



9. Is the flight path free of obstructions?



10. If applicable, has the safety plan been reviewed by flight activity participants?



11. Are a hard hat and safety eyewear worn by flight activity participants?