UC Unmanned Aircraft System Safety


Brandon Stark, UC Merced
Email: UASSafety@ucmerced.edu
Phone: (209) 201-2051
Please contact erm@ucop.edu to be added to the UC-UAS-RESEARCH-L listserv

Overview of the Center of Excellence on Unmanned Aircraft System Safety

The Center of Excellence on Unmanned Aircraft System Safety provides system-wide expertise, support and training for regulatory compliance, risk management and the safe operation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems, commonly known as drones, across the University of California system. It is also authorized to grant certain forms of approval for UAS operations in the US.

Cheat Sheet for UAS use

Need assistance figuring out what is allowed and not allowed for particular UAS use cases? The following cheat sheet depicts several common UAS uses in the UC system and what type of authorization would be needed or is allowed.

UC UAS Fleet Management

UAS flights at all UC campuses require prior approval and post-flight reporting. The new UC Drone Web App (go to UC Drone Web App, sign in and select the Drone symbol) provides a unified portal for managing flight requests and reporting for UC students, staff and faculty. This new app will help streamline the process while ensuring the highest level of safety and regulatory compliance. Requires a UC login.  A User Guide is available to walk users through the new tool.

UC San Diego students, staff and faculty must follow their specific campus procedure.

Non UC users, such as 3rd party contractors, should contact the campus for campus specific procedures.


The UC Center of Excellence on UAS Safety has developed the following set of presentations to address specific needs in the UC system.

Other Resources

Frequently Asked Questions (September 23, 2016)

1. What is Part 107 and what does it mean for future UAS flights?

Part 107 is the new set of federal regulations that introduces a new, simpler and easier process for UAS flights. It enables a new small drone operating license and simplified procedures for operating a drone.

The new remote pilot certificate with small UAS rating (Small Drone License) enables the holder to operate a small drone for non-recreational purposes. Similar to a driver's license, this license will require the applicant to pass a knowledge test and pass a security vetting, but at $150, it is significantly more obtainable than a private pilot's license, which was the previous requirement for legal drone operation. More information on the Small Drone License can be found here.

The simplified rules codifies many of the operational limits found in the Section 333 Blanket COA, but removes the restriction on FAA-approved drones and introduces a new process to obtain airport authorization to fly within their airspace control. The FAA provides a summary of the new rule here, while the full text can be found here. The UC Center of Excellence on UAS Safety will be providing guidance material and software tools to comply with the new regulations.

2. What and where can I fly?

Pilots may fly for non-recreational purposes without further FAA authorization if they possess a small UAS rating certificate issued by the FAA, operate under the Part 107 regulations and coordinate with the UC Center of Excellence on UAS Safety. Drones must be properly registered with the FAA, must be under 55 lbs, may not exceed 100 mph groundspeed, may not fly above 400 ft AGL, must fly within Class G airspace and may not fly over people or otherwise pose a threat to unwilling participants on the ground.

The majority of drone operations will fit under these parameters. However, if your proposed operation does not, the FAA has implemented a case-by-case review process that may enable them. Please contact the UC Center of Excellence on UAS Safety if you would like to explore this option.

3. Can students fly a UAS for part of a class curriculum?

Students may fly a UAS for part of a class curriculum only with prior campus approval. This includes consultation on acceptable flying site locations and standard operating procedures. For classroom or educational activities, only the instructor or teaching assistant is required to have a small drone license; the individual students do not. For guidance on how to fly UAS for a class, contact the Center of Excellence on UAS Safety.

4. I hired a professional drone pilot to fly for the campus. Do I still need authorization to fly?

Yes, all flights that are either on a UC campus or for UC business must have authorization from the Center or local campus coordinator. This will ensure that the third party pilot has proper licenses, practices, and insurance to fly. This process is put in place to prevent accidents and reduce risk by making sure that each flight has a proper safety management system.

5. Can I fly a personal UAS for my research project or filming for UC publicity?

Since the purpose of the flight is non-recreational, you must obtain a small UAS rating license and authorization from the Center. Aircraft not owned by the UC will be required to show proof of insurance prior to any flights on a UC campus or for UC business.

6. How do I register a UC-owned UAS?

UC-owned vehicles may be registered through the new FAA online registration site located here: https://registermyuas.faa.gov/. Register the vehicle as a "Non-Model Aircraft" and under the Organization Name "Regents of the University of California" This new process no longer requires a notary or FAA authorized signer to complete. Once the vehicle is registered, forward the registration slip to the Center for inclusion in the UC system database.