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Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Safety

Learn about the safe use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for research, teaching, recreation and facility operations at UC San Diego.

Definitiondrone hovering behind sky

UAS, also known as drones, are unmanned aircraft used below the federal navigable airspace. They include associated support equipment, control station, data links, telemetry, communications and navigation equipment, etc. UAS may have a variety of names including quadcopter, quadrotor, etc.

Required Steps

The use of all unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) on UC San Diego owned property and/or for official UC San Diego business must be reviewed and approved by the Department of Environment Health &Safety (EH&S) prior to flight. This policy applies to all faculty, staff, students, university contractors and visitors, as well as indoor and outdoor use. The UC San Diego use authorization requirement also applies to all unmanned aircraft that do not meet the common definition of a drone (e.g., remote controlled blimps, model rockets, etc.).

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and UC San Diego require that all operators follow these steps prior to flight:

  1. Register your UAS online with the FAA.
  2. Submit a UC San Diego online Flight Request Form (no less than 72 hours prior to proposed flight).
  3. During the Flight Request review, provide any additional information upon request by EH&S*. 
  4. Upon EH&S approval, comply with all FAA regulations and any additional UC San Diego flight precautions and restrictions. 
  5. Submit a UC San Diego online UAS Post-Flight Reporting System Form within 1 week after your flight(s).

Note: All non-domestic UAS flight requests will also be reviewed for adherence to any applicable export administration regulations.


The UC Office of the President provides system-wide expertise, support and training for regulatory compliance, risk management and the safe operation of UASs. Please refer to UC Unmanned Aircraft Systems Safety for more detailed information, including applicable FAA regulations.  

Please refer to campus map for property boundary lines.

Airspace Map

UAS users should view the airspace map below before flying in order to determine risks.

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Airports - Community-based guidelines require recreational operators to give notice for flights within 5 statute miles of an airport. Notice must be given to the airport operator or air traffic control tower, if the airport has a tower. Tap or click on an airspace area to see the airport operator phone number.

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Heliports - This layer indicates a 5-mile radius around designated heliports. These heliports may not be active, and in some instances may be an empty field where helicopters can land in emergencies. The layer adds a lot of detail in cities, where many buildings have heliports. This is included this as an advisory area to help alert UAS operators that they should be particularly alert to helicopter traffic in the area.

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Temporary Flight Restrictions - Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) are used by the FAA to temporarily restrict flights in certain areas. Some TFRs have become more permanent, like those around Disneyland and Disneyworld. But most are event based, for example when the President comes to town or to protect airspace for an airshow. The FAA publishes TFRs as necessary, but there are also “unpublished” TFRs for sporting events that AirMap also includes. A gray circle indicates that a TFR is not active at the moment, but is scheduled to start in the next 24 hours. This layer also includes real-time wildfires sourced directly from the Department of Interior’s incident command system. The FAA does not issue Temporary Flight Restrictions for the vast majority of fires in the United States, even though many are fought with firefighting aircraft. In many states, interfering with firefighting activity is considered a crime.

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Prohibited areas - Prohibited areas protect the most sensitive areas in the United States, such as the White House and Camp David. Permission from the using agency (such as the Secret Service) is required to enter a Prohibited Area and is almost never available. Restricted areas are typically located around military installations or other areas where flight could be hazardous. Permission from the controlling agency (air traffic control) is required to enter these areas and is often not available.

Note: This page has a friendly link that's easy to remember: http://blink.ucsd.edu/go/drones