Risk Management & Insurance

UAS & Drones

aerial view of hills and mountains

The use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems is increasing on university campuses. Drones are used for infrastructure inspections, agriculture and digital archeology, photography, journalism, etc. The use of drones will increase dramatically in the coming years. The Federal laws and regulations that govern their use are extensive and complex. University employees who operate University drones must operate them in accordance with applicable laws and regulations. Employees who do not operate University drones in accordance with applicable laws and regulations may have no coverage under the University’s Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Liability Insurance and may be subject to personal liability for any claims or losses arising out of their activities.

UC Center of Excellence on UAS Safety

UC is committed to promoting this new technology with forward-thinking policies that also address safety and risk management concerns. The Office of the President Risk Services has established the UC Center of Excellence on Unmanned Aircraft System Safety at UC Merced to provide expertise, advice, support and training to University employees who want to use UASs. The Center will provide guidance to UC drone users on how to plan operations and activities involving drones so that they comply with new and existing Federal laws and regulations. The Center will also advise users about drone registration, pilot-licensing requirements, and risk management concerns that bear on the safe operation of drones. The Center is authorized to grant approval for University of California UAS operations in the US.

Director Brandon Stark, UC Merced
Email: UASSafety@ucmerced.edu
Email: bstark2@ucmerced.edu
Phone: 209.201.2051
Website: OPRS: UC UAS Safety
Contact erm@ucop.edu to be added to the UC-UAS-RESEARCH-L listserv

UAS Flight Operations Approval Process at UCSB

Campuses in the UC system are currently developing procedures that permit employees and students to use drones in educational and research activities in a way that increases the probability that their use will be in accordance with applicable Federal laws and regulations. At UCSB, the UC Center of Excellence on Unmanned Aircraft System Safety must review and approve all use of drones by UCSB researchers and students to ensure that UCSB’s drone operations are legal and safe. Flight Requests, Flight Reports, and UAS Registration by UCSB employees are now handled through the UC Drone Web App (see section below entitled UC Drone Web App & User Guide). UC employees who want to submit a Flight Request or Flight Report for a UC owned and operated drone must take the following steps:

  1. Register your University drone with the FAA and with the University of California. See the section below entitled UAS Registration.
  2. Go to the UC Drone Web App. Create and submit a Flight Request application. The Flight Request should be submitted at least a week in advance of the planned flight.
  3. Center personnel will review the Flight Request application. Center personnel may suggest changes to the proposed flight operations consistent with best practices or to bring the flight into compliance with Federal law and regulations.
  4. As required, revise the Flight Request to conform to the Center’s recommendations and resubmit the Flight Request for a final review.
  5. The Center will submit their recommendation to the UCSB Police and UCSB Risk Management and either approve or deny the proposed UAS Flight Request. A copy of the recommendation will be sent to the applicant.
  6. The UCSB Police and Risk Management office will review the Center’s recommendation and approve or deny the Flight Request.
  7. If there are issues, the Flight Request may be submitted to the Office of Vice Chancellor of Administrative Services for further review and approval.
  8. If the Flight Request is denied, applicant may challenge the decision.
  9. If the Flight Request is approved, applicant must comply with Center’s final recommendations and must, at the conclusion of the flight, complete a Flight Report through the UC Drone Web App.


  1. 3rd party drone operators and non-UC affiliates do not have access to the UC Drone Web App.
  2. 3rd party and non-UC drone operators who need approval to fly a drone on campus, or for other purposes not related to University business, must complete and submit a Flight Request here. The Center will process the Flight Request and respond to the applicant by email.
  3. At the conclusion of a drone flight, 3rd party and non-UC drone operators must complete and submit a Flight Report here.

UAS Registration

Employees and students who operate University UASs in research and educational activities are legally required to register University drones with the FAA. Go to FAA Drone Registration to register your University UAS with the FAA. Drones owned by the University should be registered to “The Regents of the University of California”.

After registering the drone with the FAA, UC employees must go to the UC Drone Web App to register University UASs with the UC Center of Excellence on Unmanned Aircraft System Safety.

Use of Drones on Campus

FAA regulations prohibit the use of drones for non-recreational purposes within 5 nautical miles of the Santa Barbara Airport (which encompasses all of UCSB, Isla Vista, Goleta and parts of Santa Barbara).

The UC Center of Excellence on Unmanned Aircraft System Safety, the FAA, and the Santa Barbara Airport have agreed to allow the use of drones on the UCSB campus by UCSB faculty, students, and staff as long as the drone operator submits the proposed flight plan for approval as required by the Approval Process for UCSB UAS Flight Operations described above.

During the course of the approval process the UC Center of Excellence on Unmanned Aircraft System Safety, the UCSB Police, and the UCSB Risk Management Office will review the proposed UAS flight plan. The flight plan is subject to their approval and cannot proceed without it.

All on-campus drone flights are restricted to the area south of Campbell Hall and to the west of Steck Traffic Circle (see FS: Drone Operations on Campus) at a maximum altitude of 100 ft. AGL due to the proximity of the airport.

The Santa Barbara Airport must be notified of all on-campus UAS flights in advance of the flight. The Airport also requires notification that the flight has concluded. The UAS operator will be given the number to call at the Airport and the coordination procedures after the flight plan has been approved and authorized.

UC Drone Web App

The UC Center of Excellence on Unmanned Aircraft System Safety has developed a UC Drone Web App (go to https://ehs.ucop.edu/, sign in and select the Drone symbol) to streamline the drone registration, flight approval, and flight reporting processes that UC employees must follow when they operate University drones. The App User Guide contains instructions on the use of the UC Drone Web App. The Web App has the following features:

  • Select a pilot, aircraft, and location; submit flight request.
  • Add comments and attach supplementary files.
  • If your flight operations change, edit flight request info and add documents.
  • Status of your flight request communicated by email.
  • Submit a flight report without having to reenter previously entered info.
  • Log abnormal operations or incidents.
  • Log aircraft damage.
  • Reports for completed flights are maintained and can be viewed at any time.
  • Register with your campus and input your certificate and qualifications.
  • Update your pilot registration any time.
  • Qualification standards are under development.
  • Crew management features will be added in a future release.
  • Register your UAS to person/organization/department and track flight activity.
  • Review, approve, or deny flight requests.
  • Register other people as pilots/crew members.
  • Add and manage aircraft.
  • Add comments or documents.

If you have any comments, questions or feature requests, you can submit them to the developers at erm@ucop.edu or to the Center at uassafety@ucmerced.edu.

University-Owned UAS Insurance

Go to UCSB: UAS Liability Insurance for information about how University-owned UASs are insured.

Flying for Fun or Recreation

Flying for fun or recreation means (1) the pilot will not receive money or any compensation for the flight, (2) the flight cannot be a service for any person or organization (paid or unpaid as per federal law), and (3) the flight must be operated within visual line of sight and within a community-based set of safety guidelines.

All drones that weigh more than 0.55 lbs and less than 55 lbs must be registered with the FAA at https://registermyuas.faa.gov. If the drone will be used for recreation only, you can use the same number on all your drones. If the drone will be used for non-recreational purposes, each drone must have a different registration number. The registration number must be on the drone before it is flown and clearly visible and legible.

  • Go to FAA’s FLY FOR FUN at https://www.faa.gov/uas/getting_started/fly_for_fun/
  • Register UAS with FAA with registration numbers clearly marked on aircraft
  • Keep your UAS within sight
  • No flying over people
  • No flying over stadiums/sports events
  • No flying near other aircraft
  • No flying over moving vehicles
  • No flying near emergency response efforts
  • Check for airspace conditions (FAA B4UFLY or Airmap™)
  • Check local regulations
  • Fly only in reasonable weather conditions
  • All flights must be approved and documented
  • Flight request and reporting can be done on the UC Drones Web App (http://ehs.ucop.edu)
  • Must notify Santa Barbara Airport prior to flying
  • Fly at or below 100 ft.
  • Fly at least 50 ft. from buildings
  • No flying at night or in low visibility weather
  • FLIGHTS OFF-CAMPUS (but within 5 miles of SBA)
  • Must coordinate with Santa Barbara Airport
  • Check community guidelines
  • Check for temporary flight restrictions