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.