As of September 16, 2023, any UAS vehicles will require FAA-registered remote identification, or Remote ID. If an UAS does not have one of these Remote IDs already installed, an after-market Remote ID will need to be purchased and installed before it can fly after September 16. Note: MSU is not an FAA-Recognized Identification Area (FRIA). Find more information on FAA's Remote ID webpage.


This handbook applies to all university faculty, staff, and students using or proposing to use Uncrewed Aircraft Systems (UAS) for official University activities or operations on/over university or non-University property. Furthermore, this handbook applies to all commercial operators,recreational fliers, and modeler community-based organizations on university property. This handbook supplements the Montana State University (MSU) Uncrewed Aircraft Systems Policy. 


All individuals proposing to use UAS for official University activities or operations on/over university or non-University property, and all commercial operators, recreational fliers, and modeler community-based organizations on university property must obtain written approval prior to flight operations.

The process must be initiated at:Submit a flight request

All flights must be approved on an individual flight basis except for University departmental use that occurs on a regular basis (i.e., PBS, Athletics, academic instruction, Research, University Services).  In these instances, an annual flight waiver may be provided for no more than one year, but individual flights on-campus must still be recorded with UPD.  Upon approval of an annual flight waiver, details of how to record individual flights will be provided.

Approval must be initiated at least 10 calendar days in advance.  Flight operations may not occur until written approvalis granted.  This approval may include modifications to the original submission.  It is the responsibility of the user to note any modifications to the original submitted plan.

A copy of the approval must be in the possession of the operator at all times during the activity and, upon request, must be presented to any University official or representative with jurisdiction over the activity.


Any operation that is not approved in advance is prohibited.  The following is a list of specific appropriate and prohibited uses:

  • UAS may be used in university research, academic pursuits, physical plant operations, safety and security, and commercial endeavors that benefit the University mission.
  • Protocols for the use, distribution, security, and retention of collected data must comply with university policy.
  • UAS shall not be used to monitor or record areas or individuals where and when privacy is expected. These areas include but are not limited to classrooms, offices, restrooms, locker rooms, residential rooms, hallways or lounges, health treatment facilities, campus daycare facilities and private residential properties.
  • UAS may not be used to take photos or videos of any workout, practice, or competition of any Bobcat Athletics team without the written permission of the Athletic Director or designee.
  • UAS shall not be used to monitor or record sensitive institutional or personal information.
  • Any data inadvertently obtained on non-consenting individuals, or their property must be expunged immediately. All reasonable efforts must be made to ensure that these data are not abused in any manner or transmitted outside of the test area.


Users must comply  with all applicable FAA regulations (  or regulations in force in the jurisdiction where the UAS is operated and the University restrictions below at all times unless modifications are specifically requested and approved during the application process:

  • No flights shall occur within 200 feet of the outside edge of a University Residence Hall.
  • No flights shall occur within 50 feet of the outside edge of all other University buildings.
  • Must adhere to the approved flight plan and other specifics of use designated and approved during the application process.

Exceptions to these restrictions can be requested during the approval process. Each request will be reviewed and approved or not approved on an individual basis.


Safety is the most important consideration in all flight operations.  Montana State University requires that all users agree to operate in accordance with FAA regulations where applicable.  In addition, it is the responsibility of the user to practice sound and prudent safety measures.  These measures should, at a minimum, include the following:

  • Weather should be appropriate for use and users should consult the forecast in advance. Winds and visibility should be monitored at all times.
  • Situational awareness should be appropriate and adequate during flight and flight should be immediately discontinued if an unsafe situation arises.
  • UAS may not operate in poor visibility (i.e., when visibility is less than 3 miles) and must remain clear of clouds, except when operating pursuant to an FAA waiver and is approved during the application process.
  • UAS may not be operated inside any occupied or covered facility unless such facility is designated, either full-time or part-time, for the specific purpose of operating or testing UAS or the operator has express written permission of the facility manager and required approvers.
  • Any University-owned UAS and related support equipment must be stored in appropriate secure facilities.

The University Police Department has the final authority to determine if unsafe conditions exist for operation of UAS on the MSU campus or other MSU property.  UPD has the authority to cease operations immediately for the safety of individuals or property.


FAA guidelines and University policy must be followed by all UAS users.  During the Registration and Approval Process, all licensure requirements will be reviewed.  Proof of required license will be required at the time of application.  Any individuals not meeting the required licensure will not be approved.

As of September 16, 2023 any UAS vehicles will require FAA-registered remote identification, or Remote ID. If an UAS does not have one of these Remote IDs already installed, an after-market Remote ID will need to be purchased and installed before it can fly after September 16. Note: MSU is not an FAA-Recognized Identification Area (FRIA). Find more information on FAA's Remote ID webpage.

Any university employee or student wishing to operate an MSU-owned UAS as part of their university employment or as part of a university program must comply with Part 107 rules, or a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA). 

If seeking a COA, The Office of Research Compliance (ORC) is the FAA account holder for COAs for Montana State University and processes all applications on a case-by-case basis. The following steps must be taken to obtain a COA.  The COA will be required as an attachment during the application process:

  1. After the Pre-Application has been approved, faculty, staff and students wishing to use UASs in official University activities under a COA must complete the COA/Waiver Application Requirements Form and submit the completed form to the Office of Research Compliance for approval. Drafting the COA/Waiver application is the sole responsibility of the Office of Research Compliance.
  2. Once the COA/Waiver request is complete the Office of Research Compliance will submit the application to the FAA on behalf of the University.
  • The outcome of the FAA decision regarding the COA will be relayed to the applicable faculty and/or staff. Note that FAA approval must be obtained before use of the UAS and may take from 60 – 120 days.
  1. The Office of Research Compliance will maintain oversight for the execution of COAs/Waivers held by the University.

INSURANCE – University Owned


This policy requires the registration of all University-owned UAS. MSU Safety & Risk Management is the only office authorized to register University-owned UAS. Once your UAS is registered it will automatically be covered for liability under the State’s statutory self-insurance program.

Insurance coverage for physical damage to university owned UAS is optional under the State’s insurance program. Procurement of physical damage coverage is the responsibility of the user and shall be arranged through Safety & Risk Management.


Use as part of MSU employment or as part of a university program

When university owned UAS are operated by faculty, staff, volunteers or students for university purposes, they are covered for liability provided the craft is appropriately registered as described herein.  If a Certificate of Insurance is requested by venues for off-campus use, please contact Safety & Risk Management.

INSURANCE – Non-University Owned

Insurance is required from non-university owned UAS operators, including on behalf of the University, to protect against claims for injuries to persons or damage to property which may arise from or in connection with the ownership, maintenance or use of the UAS. A Certificate of Insurance as described herein shall be provided during the application process.

UAS operators using non-MSU owned craft on university property must provide evidence of Owned / Non-Owned aviation liability insurance coverage with a limit of no less than $1,000,000, and no sublimits under $50,000. A Certificate of Insurance showing your policy applies to aircraft liabilities, in the amount stated, that names the State of Montana and Montana State University as Additionally Insured shall be provided during the application process.  Such coverage may not exclude contractual liability and shall be primary without any right of contribution from any other insurance available to MSU.  The purchase of any policy or adding the State of Montana and Montana State University as additionally insured shall not limit the defense of governmental immunity.

The certificate holder and additional insured should be shown as follows: 

The State of Montana and Montana State University 

c/o MSU Safety & Risk Management 

Montana State University 

Bozeman, MT 59717-0510 


If applicable, commercial users must carry statutory limits as required by the State of Montana; or have a MT Independent Contractor’s Exemption Certificate.

The University reserves the right to modify these requirements based on its determination of risk associated with the proposed activity. The following types of coverage may be needed for the use of UAS and ancillary business activities: Commercial Property, Professional Liability, Auto Liability, General Liability.


The FAA requires notification of certain UAS accidents. Part 107.9 requires an accident be reported within 10 calendar days after an operation that involves:

  1. Serious injury to any person or any loss of consciousness; or
  2. Collision with other UAS; or
  3. Damage to any property, other than the small UAS, unless one of the following conditions are satisfied:
    1. The cost to repair (including material and labor) does not exceed $500; or
    2. The fair market value of the property does not exceed $500 in the event of a total loss

When any incidents or accidents occur that involves damage to MSU property, or injury or damage to property of others it must be reported to Safety and Risk Management.  The pilot in command shall make the report online within five calendar days using the appropriate report form:

Any incident or accident occurring without proper insurance or without having completed the approval process will not be covered by the University, to include Departmentally purchased UAS that have not been registered with Safety & Risk Management.


Applicants who are denied use of a UAS as proposed through the application process may initiate an appeal per section 700 of the Uncrewed Aircraft Systems (UAS) Policy.


The following positions (or designees), as a unit, will review this handbook periodically or when needed:

  • Director of Research Compliance
  • Chief Compliance Officer
  • Director of Emergency Management
  • Insurance Manager, Safety and Risk Management
  • Deputy Director of Athletics
  • Director of Visual Media, University Communications
  • ASMSU Student Representative