Risk Management & Insurance


UAS & Drones

aerial view of hills and mountains

The use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems is increasing across the US and on university campuses. Drone clubs at UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC San Diego and UC Merced, are making drones a part of campus life. The University is committed to promoting this new technology by dedicating resources to assist faculty, staff, and students who want to use drones and with forward-thinking policies that will address safety and risk management concerns.

Drones for Research & Business

Go to the Drones For Research & Business web page if you want to fly drones on or off campus for scientific research and/or educational or business purposes.

Recreational Drones

Go to the Recreational Drones web page if you want to fly drones or model aircraft on campus for fun and recreation.

Jurisdiction Over Drone Operations

The FAA claims sole jurisdiction over the use of the national airspace system (49 U.S.C. 40103 (b); https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/49/40103 ). However, the FAA does not typically regulate what happens on the ground. "Laws traditionally related to state and local police power - including land use, zoning, privacy, trespass and law enforcement operations - are not subject to Federal Regulation" (third column, page 42194, Federal Register, Vol. 81, No 124; https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2016-06-28/pdf/2016-15079.pdf). The FAA states: “You don't need permission from the FAA to fly your UAS (aka drone) for fun or recreation” (see https://www.faa.gov/uas/getting_started/fly_for_fun/). This does not mean that local municipalities and agencies cannot themselves regulate and restrict the operation of drones within their boundaries or on their property. A number have completely banned drones:

Others require permission:

Others have established limitations:

Research/Business Use Vs. Recreational Use

Drones flown for non-recreational purposes (business, research, education, etc.) are subject to more FAA regulations and restrictions than those flown recreationally (https://www.faa.gov/uas/getting_started/fly_for_work_business/). Unfortunately, the distinction between recreational and non-recreational use is not always clear. The FAA fined a drone operator who thought his use was recreational $55,000 because the FAA said he was operating non-recreationally (http://www.citypages.com/news/is-this-cecil-the-lion-drone-photo-worth-5...). If this were to occur at UCSB, the fine might even be higher because of the proximity of the airport.

Managing Drone Operations at UCSB

The campus has established a drone Flight Request review and approval process to minimize the risks that arise out of drone use (see the Drones For Research & Business web page and/or the Recreational Drones web page). By running all drone flight operations through a review and approval process the campus promotes their safe and legal use and ensures the consistent interpretation of local, state, and federal laws and regulations.

In addition to concerns about personal safety, property damage, privacy, and noise complaints that apply to all drone operations, the airspace around UCSB is particularly complex and unforgiving. UCSB is situated right next door to the airport and as a consequence the Santa Barbara Airport must be notified of all on-campus drone operations (Federal Public Law 112-95, Section 336 - https://www.congress.gov/112/plaws/publ95/PLAW-112publ95.pdf ). All drone operations must avoid interfering with aircraft flight patterns (14 CFR 101.43 -https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/14/101.43).

Enforcement of drone laws will be local and based on the specific circumstances of any infraction. Law enforcement response could range from politely asking someone to stop, to an arrest if a drone is being used to spy on people (in California, the protection of privacy extends to the airspace - http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?lawCo...). A violation of federal law will be reported to the FAA regardless of where it occurs. According to 49 U.S.C. 44103(d) (https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/49/44103), the registration of any aircraft must be made available to law enforcement when requested. Additional information about law enforcement in general, can be found at: https://www.faa.gov/uas/resources/law_enforcement/