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Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) / Drone Safety

Learn about safely using an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) at UC San Diego.

Introductiondrone 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/types including quadcopter, fixed-wing, etc. This also includes unmanned aircraft that do not meet the common definition of a drone (e.g., remote-controlled blimps, model rockets, balloons, etc.)

This technology offers great potential for research and other educational functions as well as providing opportunities for recreational use and business pursuits. Additionally, the University has an obligation to consider public safety, privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties issues related to the use of UAS.

Requesting Flight Approval

Environment, Health and Safety (EH&S) ensures that all UAS activities are conducted in a manner that protects students, faculty, staff, visitors, the public, property, and the environment and complies with all applicable policy, laws and regulations.

The use of all UAS on UC San Diego-owned property and/or for official UC San Diego business (off-campus as well) must be reviewed and approved prior to flight. This policy applies to all faculty, staff, students, university contractors and visitors, as well as indoor and outdoor use. Allow 3 business days for approval. 

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 if applicable (between 0.55 – 55 pounds).
  2. Submit a flight request
    1. UC students, staff and faculty — Use the UC Drone Web App (go to UC Drone Web App, sign in and select the Drone symbol). See User Guide for help.  
    2. Third-party affiliates — Use the Flight Request Form (no less than 72 hours prior to the 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 post-flight report immediately after your flight(s). Third-party affiliates must use this post-flight report form.

All flights are reviewed in conjunction with UCOP, PD, the Privacy Officer and any other jurisdictional authority the flight path may intersect (e.g., Health, Natural Reserves, etc.). 

Note: All international UAS flight requests require review and adherence to any applicable export administration regulations.

Campus Property and beyond

  • Please refer to the La Jolla campus map for property boundary lines – other UC San Diego property locations require approval and review. 
  • Those not affiliated with UC San Diego who are interested in filming on campus must follow the University Communications and Public Affairs Filming Guidelines.
  • Flights may be prohibited in certain areas around or near residences, patient care facilities, sensitive ecological habitats and other areas deemed risky, or that interfere with University business. 

Resources and Support

We encourage UC San Diego researchers, staff and students to contact for assistance with all UAS matters. We offer personalized flight training, consulting for international flights, developing flight manuals, obtaining insurance, filing FAA waivers/COAs and many other free, helpful services.  

Please visit the following for more useful resources: 

Airspace Maps

UAS users should utilize an airspace map (e.g., B4UFLY) before flying in order to determine their requirements and risks. Additionally, please refer to the UAS Facility Maps for areas and altitudes in controlled airspace around airports where drone pilots can receive authorization to fly below the maximum altitude.

If you have any questions, please contact Environment, Health and Safety.
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