Whether you're a novice drone pilot or have many years of aviation experience, rules and safety tips exist to help you fly safely in the National Airspace System (NAS). Anyone flying a drone is responsible for flying within Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidelines and regulations. That means it is up to you as a drone pilot to know the Rules of the Sky, and where it is and is not safe to fly.

The rule for operating unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) or drones under 55 pounds (25kg) in the NAS is 14 CFR Part 107, referred to as the Small UAS Rule. Personnel flying under these regulations are commonly referred to as Part 107 or Commercial Flyers.

If you are flying a drone for purely recreational (for enjoyment), or for educational and research purposes, there is a limited statutory exception that provides a basic set of requirements. Personnel flying under these regulations are commonly referred to as Recreational or TRUST Flyers.

In summary, all UAS flights require certification through one of the following options: 
- Part 107 License.
- Exception for Recreational Flyers (TRUST Program).
- Part 61 License holders (those holding a pilots license for manned aircraft), can complete a special course to become certified for drone flights. 

Requirements for UAS Operations

FAA requirements for UAS operations must be met for all flights. Additionally, if flying on campus property, the University policy FO-05 should be followed. 

Campus Specific Requirements

To maintain the safety of our entire campus community, university policy (FO-05) requires that all remote pilots first obtain permission from the Division of Public Safety before conducting a drone flight on campus property. 
Submit a request now.

If you are conducting aerial activities inside campus property, you must obtain approval from Code Compliance & Fire Safety, in addition to obtaining facility approval (facility contacts).

Researchers must maintain Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) related to use of drones; i.e., flight, calibration, and bench testing. All incidents and near-misses involving drones in a research setting should be reported to the Division of Research Safety at 217-333-2755 or drs@illinois.edu.

Bodily injury or property damage which occurs while using a University owned UAV (Drone) for University purposes should be reported to the Office of Claims Management

FAA Requirements

All UAS flights, aircraft, and Student Hobbyists and/or Remote Pilots must meet current FAA requirements for the type of flight, purpose of the flight, flight operator requirements, and flight conditions.  This means you must know your flight plans and the type of flyer (recreational or commercial) you are before deciding which FAA requirements apply to you. If needed, use the FAA User Identification Tool to assist you in determining what type of flyer you are.

The Recreational Flyer (TRUST) exception also includes flights for Educational and research purposes by an institution of higher education.

The term 'education or research purposes', with respect to the operation of an unmanned aircraft system by an institution of higher education, includes:
•    instruction of students at the institution;
•    academic or research related uses of unmanned aircraft systems that have been approved by the institution, including Federal research;
•    activities undertaken by the institution as part of research projects, including research projects sponsored by the Federal Government; and
•    other academic activities approved by the institution.

A couple examples of NOT operating as a Recreational Flyer (TRUST) under the exemptions for institution of higher education for educational or research purposes include:
•    Drone flights for inspection or photography of architectural structures related to campus construction projects.
•    Drone flights for purposes of obtaining pictures to be posted on a campus website

The default regulation for drones weighing under 55 pounds (25kg) is Part 107. When in doubt, fly under Part 107.

Unless specifically authorized by the FAA, recreational drone flying is limited to no more than 400ft above ground level in uncontrolled airspace and is limited to UAS Facility Map (UASFM) altitudes in controlled airspace.

TRUST flyers must keep their drone in their visual line of sight at all times. Using a visual observer does not allow a recreational flyer to fly a drone beyond their visual line of sight.

  • Anyone flying their drone in the United States as a recreational flyer needs to pass the The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST) exam and keep the certificate on their person to legally fly.
  • Register your drone through the FAA Drone Zone before you fly if it weighs more than .55lbs (250g). Drones weighing more than 55 lbs (25kg) must use the paper (N-number) registration process.
  • Know your airspace! Most of UIUC is under controlled airspace, as is most of the Champaign-Urbana area. 
  • All TRUST flyers need airspace authorization in controlled airspace before they fly. This authorization could be obtained using the B4UFLY app (iOS / Android).
  • Have a plan and check your airspace before flight. Special events (i.e. Illini Football) can create additional flight restrictions. Use the B4UFLY app to see all applicable restrictions in real-time.

 If you are not flying for recreational, or educational and research purposes you must comply with the guidelines in Part 107.

  • This means you must understand what is and is not allowed under Part 107 rules and become an FAA-Certified Drone Pilot by passing the knowledge test.
  • Study material could be found on the FAA website.
  • Learners can attend a course (online or in-person), but it is not required.
  • The exam could be taken locally at Parkland College.
  • Register your drone through the FAA Drone Zone before you fly if it weighs more than .55lbs (250g). Drones weighing more than 55 lbs (25kg) must use the paper (N-number) registration process.
  • After certification, information about airspace and LAANC approvals could be obtained using the B4UFLY app (iOS / Android).

Some circumstances may require you to operate under Part 101 regulations. If you plan to launch a weather balloon, amateur rocket, or other special airborne equipment please have detailed plans of your operations and consult with Willard Airport (and/or other nearby airports) and the FAA.

Last Updated: 4/13/2023 11:30:56 AM