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UNM Policy Office

MSC05 3357
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131

Physical Location:
Scholes Hall
114 A and B

Phone: (505) 277-6531

Administrative Policies and Procedures Manual - Policy 2265: Recreational Drones

Date Originally Issued: 03-08-2016
Revised: 04-21-2017

Authorized by RPM 3.1 (“Responsibilities of the President”)

Process Owner: Chief, UNM Police Department

1.  General

This policy pertains to the outdoor use of hobby or recreational drones, model airplanes, and other unmanned aerial vehicles or unmanned aerial systems (all of which are collectively referred to as “recreational drones” in this policy). 

In order to protect the health and safety of the campus community and the public, recreational drones may not be flown above the Albuquerque campus, except as described in Section 4 of this policy. Branch campuses should follow the Federal Aviation Association (FAA) safety guidelines for the use of recreational drones discussed in Section 2 of this policy.

The scope of this policy is limited to the use of recreational drones. Although outside the policy’s scope, the use of drones for research, educational, or commercial purposes requires an exemption from the FAA under Section 333 of the Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 or a certificate of waiver or authorization from the FAA, and sometimes both. All UNM units that purchase drones should notify Safety and Risk Services' Manager of Insurance and Claims of drone purchases and when the drones are taken out of use. The information is submitted to the State Risk Management Division for insurance-related purposes.

2.  Safety Guidelines for the Use of Recreational Drones

The FAA has established safety guidelines for the use of recreational drones, which include:

  • Flying below 400 feet and remaining clear of surrounding obstacles
  • Keeping the aircraft within the visual line of sight at all times
  • Remaining well clear of and not interfering with piloted aircraft operations
  • Not flying within five miles of an airport, unless the airport and control tower are notified before flying
  • Not flying near people or stadiums
  • Not flying a drone that weighs more than 55 pounds
  • Not being careless or reckless with the drone

3.  Albuquerque Campus’s Proximity to Airports and Stadiums

The FAA’s safety guidelines state that recreational drones should not be flown in close proximity to airports or stadiums, unless the airport and control tower are notified before flying.  Notably, the entire Albuquerque campus is located within five miles of an airport, either the University helipad or the Albuquerque International Sunport.  In addition to University Stadium on the Albuquerque campus, there is another stadium nearby at Isotopes Park.

4.  General Prohibition on the Use of Recreational Drones

The use of recreational drones on campus exposes the campus community and the public to the risk of injuries from crashes, operator errors, and mechanical failures, as well as privacy invasions and other undesirable consequences. On and near the Albuquerque campus are airports and stadiums, for which recreational drones pose heightened safety risks. For these reasons, the University has instituted a general prohibition against flying recreational drones outdoors above the Albuquerque campus, except as described in Section 4.1 below.

4.1.  Obtaining Approval for the Use of Recreational Drones for Special Events 

The use of recreational drones for special events on the Albuquerque campus may be approved on a case-by-case basis by submitting a Special Event Application Form to Safety and Risk Services at least three weeks prior to the planned event. The request will also need to be presented to the UNM Campus Events Committee. The Campus Events Committee is facilitated through the Student Activities Center. Scheduling a presentation to the committee can be done by contacting the Student Activities Coordinator at (505) 277-4706. The Campus Events Committee and Safety and Risk Services will review the Special Event Application Form and notify the applicant whether an exception has been granted.  When an exception is granted, recreational drones should be flown in accordance with the FAA safety guidelines and other applicable standards, including those indicated by the Campus Events Committee.

5.  References 

FAA Guidelines for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (Fly for Fun)

FAA Guidelines for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (Fly for Work/Business)