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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 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 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. 

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. 3rd-party fffiliates — Use the 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 post-flight report immediately after your flight(s). 3rd party affiliates must use this post-flight report form.

Requests also apply to all unmanned aircraft that do not meet the common definition of a drone (e.g., remote controlled blimps, model rockets, etc.).

Note: All non-domestic 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.


Airspace Maps

UAS users should utilize an airspace map (AirMap, Hover, KittyHawk or B4UFLY) before flying in order to determine their requirements and risks. See example below:

Orange cirlce

Airports - Controlled airspace often exists around airports. Use caution and obtain airspace authorization when necessary before flying near these areas. 

Orange and white diagonal stripes in cirlce

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. 

blue square

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