Aerial drone use over Ann Arbor campus suspended


The University of Michigan has temporarily banned the use of all unmanned aerial systems — better known as drones — on or above campus property while a policy regulating their use is developed.

Effective immediately, the ban applies to all outdoor campus spaces and public indoor spaces on the Ann Arbor campus, but does not include laboratories and other designated areas where drone research or educational activities are conducted.  

Failure to comply with the ban may result in confiscation of the drone, removal of future flight privileges and possible state and federal penalties.

At the same time, a new, netted outdoor facility is being constructed to provide a safe testing area on campus for drone research and educational uses. Completion of the facility is expected this year.

The temporary ban was announced in a joint e-mail to university staff from Provost and Executive Vice President Martha Pollack, Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs Marschall Runge, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Kevin Hegarty, and Vice President for Research S. Jack Hu.

“Unmanned aerial systems are not only a key focus of university research, but they are also rapidly showing up in commercial applications and personal use,” the executives said.

“It has become essential to address the challenges to the safety and security of our campus and the surrounding community that may arise from the unsafe operation of these devices on or above our campus.”

In 2015, an unauthorized drone landed on the helipad at the U-M Health System, which would have interfered with the ability for Survival Flight to be dispatched in the event of an emergency.

A committee is being formed to develop and implement policy and procedures, and recommend enforcement rules for the use of unmanned or autonomous systems and devices  — including those that operate in the air, on land and in the water — on all U-M property. Those policies are expected this spring.

The Institutional Autonomous Systems Committee will include faculty, staff and student representatives, and reports to the vice president for research and the executive vice president and chief financial officer. The committee also will be responsible for reviewing requests for permission to fly drones on campus.

Students, faculty and staff seeking to fly drones in any airspace are advised to comply with the requirements of the Federal Aviation Administration. This process also makes FAA Air Traffic Control facilities aware of drone operations and provides the FAA the ability to consider airspace issues unique to drone operations.



  1. Norm M
    on February 12, 2016 at 9:46 am

    You couldn’t read to the second sentence?

  2. Steve Winchester
    on February 12, 2016 at 10:24 am

    They have no authority to do this. The laws and regulations applicable to drone flights are almost entirely federal. The federal government “has exclusive sovereignty of airspace in the United States” and the FAA sets all standards for flight safety, “preempting the entire field from state and local regulation.” However, the fact remains that most of Ann Arbor is inside five miles of AA airport, requiring any drone pilots to first contact the tower and report their activity. All of which must be under 400 feet AGL (above ground level). We all still await rules and regs from the FAA, patiently, as they are now two years behind doing that.

    • Tom Marshick
      on February 12, 2016 at 12:30 pm

      The Heli pads themselves are a FAA zone, so basically the whole of Annarbor is a no fly unless you contact the field operator/tower.

      The FAA has an APP that you can download balled B4UFLY that shows these zones. The 5 miles from an Airfield covers the Highway loop all the way around AA and more.

  3. Kevin Atkins
    on February 12, 2016 at 10:47 am

    Interestingly, here in ‘Liberal’ land, no one mentioned anything about one of the most important of civil liberties – privacy. These drones more often than not are used as platforms for cameras. Want to take one of these babies out for a ‘spin’ away from other people – godspeed John Glenn. Otherwise, desist.

  4. Tom Marshick
    on February 12, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    Anyone flying a “drone” RC craft in a FAA controlled airspace (5 miles from air field) is supposed to notify the airfield operator. I suspect that didn’t happen, and landing it directly on the Heli pad probably alerted them to potential issues and brought it to the forefront.
    Aside from physical safety in the air space, there are frequency considerations as well. The frequencies used by most RC control and FPV video equipment is within the Wifi range (2.4Ghz and 5Ghz) and can interfere. Wifi is heavily utilized in the hospital.

  5. Dave Z
    on February 12, 2016 at 1:44 pm

    Under 49 United States Code 40103, the United States Government has exclusive sovereignty of airspace of the United States and the FAA has the authority to prescribe air traffic regulations on the flight of aircraft, including UAS. Whether Federal law preempts state or local requirements for UAS depends on the precise nature of those requirements. The Department of Transportation evaluates these laws or requirements on a case-by-case basis to make sure they don’t conflict with FAA’s authority to provide safe and efficient use of U.S. airspace.

  6. Neil S
    on February 13, 2016 at 12:25 pm

    Really? The only instance involving the FAA having to intervene with the operation of UAVs in the state of MI for the past 3 years I could find was September 20th 2015 when the University of MI planned an illegal flight over Michigan Stadium during a game to drop off the game ball. The FAA was not contacted beforehand according to the quotes in the Mlive article. And now they ban UAVs in a space that they have no jurisdiction over? Bravo

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