The Office of Risk Management and Insurance provides guidance to the University community on the use of drones for University-related business and recreational purposes.  The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) published a memorandum on the use of drones for recreational purposes, including students use of drones for educational purposes on May 4, 2016.  The FAA also published regulations on the use of drones for commercial purposes on August 29, 2016.  The new memorandum and regulations coincide with local drone use ordinances,  a rapidly changing insurance market, best practice safety guidelines and new technology to create quite a headache for people wanting to fly drones.  Our office will help you with these items so we can approve you to fly as soon as possible.


Items needed for approval:

  • A copy of the drone pilot’s certification / license.
  • FAA registration number for the drone.  Recreational operators are no longer required to register their drones with the FAA; however, they still need to register with our office.  If you are a recreational operators, please submit a description of your drone to our office.
  • A detailed flight plan for the portion of the photo shoot that will include the drone.  Here is a link to the form: Drone Flight Plan form.
  • FAA Airspace Authorization / Waiver to operate in Class D airspace.  The FAA requires this because the University is within a five mile radius of Tompkins County Regional Airport.  Please submit this at least three months prior to the drone operation.  Here is a link to the form: FAA Airspace Authorization / Waiver form.
  • Proof of general liability insurance applicable to unmanned aircraft with coverage limits of at least $2 million. Cornell personnel should submit a detailed description of the drone to Risk Management, including the FAA registration number, owner’s contact information, model, manufacturer, size, weight, additional attached equipment, and replacement cost value, etc…. Risk Management will add the drone as property covered under the All Risk Program.   Non-Cornell personnel will need to have their insurance company submit a certificate of insurance showing proof of general liability insurance applicable to unmanned aircraft.  Typically, the insurance company will send an endorsement for unmanned aircraft with the certificate of insurance showing that the insurance coverage applies to the operator’s drone.

General safety guidelines:

  • Never interfere with any manned aircraft.
  • Drones must always be within the operator’s visual line-of-sight unaided by a visual enhancement device (binoculars etc.….).
  • Do not be careless or reckless with your drone. You could be fined by the FAA for endangering people, property or other aircraft.
  • Always remain in control of the drone.  Land it immediately if you are not able to control it for any reason
  • Do not operate the drone over crowds of people
  • Do not operate the drone over any individual that is unaware you are operating the drone.
  • Report all incidents, including near misses, to the Office of Risk Management and Insurance.
  • Pilots operating drones for purposes of recording or transmitting visual images must take all reasonable measures to avoid violations of areas normally considered private.

Specific guidance based on category of operator:

Cornell Faculty or Staff

Cornell Students

Cornell Operations

Third-Party Vendors

Non-Cornell Personnel

Off-Campus UAS Operations

University owned UAS

Recreational use of UAS

Please contact our office with any questions.