Guidelines for the Operation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems at the University of Pennsylvania

The University of Pennsylvania establishes the following Guidelines to govern the operation by any person of an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) on or above the University of Pennsylvania’s campus or properties.  These guidelines are established to support the use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems in ways that ensure the safety and protect the privacy of all members of the University community and promote compliance with all applicable federal and state laws. These guidelines cover the University of Pennsylvania Campus, Morris Arboretum, New Bolton Center, and Pennovation Works.

The University of Pennsylvania, consistent with the regulations and guidance from the Federal Aviation Administration, allows the operation of a UAS on or above the Penn campus for permitted educational and recreational purposes (for which a Section 107 Remote Pilot in Command Certification is optional) and research or UAS-dedicated curriculum purposes (for which a Section 107 Remote Pilot In Command Certification is mandatory) provided that all operations are in compliance with the following guidelines:

  • The operation of the UAS is a component of research, science, technology, communication, art, or aviation-related coursework at Penn, or 2) recreational and hobby use is conducted at the designated location for UAS operation at Penn, Penn Park South Field, Attachment A.  Scheduled hours for operation are set monthly, and can be found at under the South Field schedule. The University of Pennsylvania reserves the right to restrict use to Penn-affiliated persons.
  • Operation of the UAS aircraft must adhere to these restrictions:
    • Flights must be below 200 feet and clear of surrounding obstacles.
    • Flights may not exceed 100 mph.
    • UAS must be in visual sight of its operator at all times.
    • UAS may not operate over any persons not participating in the operation or in a building or other covered structure.1
    • UAS must remain clear of all manned aircraft operations. Note: Penn Hospitals have frequent medical helicopter flights coming and going and all UAS operations must not be in proximity to or interfere with medical helicopter flights.
      • Anyone intending to operate a UAS at the University of Pennsylvania must notify the PennSTAR Communications Center, 215-662-7736 (primary) or 215-662-7737 (alternate), at least one hour prior to the flight and provide flight location and duration.
        • Individual notification is not required for flights at the designated Penn South Field UAS location during scheduled flight hours.
  • No flights are allowed in proximity of large gatherings of people or sporting events.
  • No flights are allowed 30 minutes before official sunset to 30 minutes after official sunrise.2
  • UAS must weigh less than 55 pounds.
  • No reckless operation.
  • UAS may not be used to photograph, video, record or monitor areas or locations where members of the University of Pennsylvania community or members of the general public would have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
  • The operator must safely ground and suspend operations of any UAS when ordered by a University of Pennsylvania Police Officer or public safety official.
  • UAS use must comply with all federal, state, and local laws and guidelines.
    • The operator of a UAS weighing between .55 to 55 pounds must register the UAS with the FAA.
    • Information on FAA rules and online registration can be accessed at:
    • Registration of a UAS aircraft under .55 pounds is not required, but all other safety restrictions apply.
  • Recreational and educational operators may not receive any compensation (including cost reimbursement, honorarium, or pay) directly or indirectly related to operation of the UAS.
  • Any use for instructional, research, or commercial purposes by Penn faculty, students, and staff must comply with all FAA Part 107 or Section 333 requirements. (, Flight restrictions in these guidelines may be modified through compliance with the FAA waiver application and approval process.
  • Commercial Operation of UAS
    • All civil commercial UAS use must comply with all federal, state and local laws and guidelines and operators must obtain a Part 107 Certification, a Section 333 Exemption, or a “Special Airworthiness Certificate” issued by the FAA.
    • Commercial use of a UAS from or above University of Pennsylvania property is permitted only for educational, research, or University-related purposes.
    • A commercial UAS operator must provide proof of $5 Million in general liability insurance on an occurrence basis, with a certificate of insurance naming the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania as an additional insured. Proof of insurance shall be submitted to the University of Pennsylvania risk management department prior to flight operations.
    • A commercial UAS operator must be accompanied by a representative of the University of Pennsylvania at all times when operating a UAS on University property.

Penalties for Violation of University UAS Guidelines

Any violation of law (trespassing, illegal surveillance, reckless endangerment, etc.) or violation of this policy may subject the individual responsible for the violation to disciplinary action and/or prosecution.

Any damages or injuries to property or individuals during the operation of a UAS on University of Pennsylvania property, other than for a University of Pennsylvania authorized research or educational use, shall be the sole financial responsibility of the UAS operator. However, an operator shall be solely liable for negligent or intentional use outside of the authorized research or educational use.

For questions regarding the operation of a UAS at the University of Pennsylvania, you may contact:

Division of Public Safety 215-573-3333


This restriction does not apply to UAS operations in secured UAS research and development areas such as those at SEAS and Pennovation.


This restriction does not apply to UAS operations in secured UAS research and development areas such as those at SEAS and Pennovation.

Drone Operations Park