The FAA issued a major announcement yesterday on the use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (“UAS”) for educational institutions (link). Students of educational institutions no longer need a Section 333 exemption or other authorization to fly under certain conditions, provided that they follow the rules for model aircraft.

  • A person may operate an unmanned aircraft for hobby or recreation in accordance with section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (FMRA) at educational institutions and community-sponsored events provided that person is (1) not compensated or (2) any compensation received is neither directly nor indirectly related to that person’s operation of the aircraft at such events;
  • A student may conduct model aircraft operations in accordance with section 336 of the FMRA in furtherance of his or her aviation-related education at an accredited educational institution.
  • Faculty teaching aviation-related courses at accredited educations institutions may assist students who are operating a model aircraft under section 336 and in connection with a course that requires such operations, provided the student maintains operational control of the model aircraft such that the faculty member’s manipulation of the model aircraft’s controls is incidental and secondary to the student’s (e.g., the faculty member steps-in to regain control in the event the student begins to lose control, to terminate the flight, etc.)

Though the FAA’s interpretation does not permit all types of UAS flights by students, this is a major change that will facilitate student-directed UAS flights.