Chapter 9 Normal Flight Operations

The Standard Operating Procedures for Advanced UAS Operations (SOPA) applies to the use and guidance of UAS in flight operations, flight planning, training, and oversight as a requirement to exercise the privileges of operating under 1) a Grant of Exemption pursuant to Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, 2) any Public Agency Operation when operating a Public Aircraft, 3) any other operations conducted under a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) including an Airspace Authorization, Airspace Waiver or Operational Waiver or 4) any operation categorized as a moderate and above Risk Level. For other Standard Operating Procedures, please see the New User Guide.

A Normal UAS activity is any flight that is not conducted for training or maintenance purposes.

  • Per Policy, all UAS activity requires prior approval granted via the submission of a UAS Activity Request Form.
  • It is the responsibility of the RPIC to evaluate each UAS activity in detail prior to operation.
  • The Systemwide Designated UAS Authority or Designated Local Authority will evaluate a UAS Activity Request Form for regulatory compliance, identify campus coordination requirements or other requirements necessary to enable UAS activity.

9.1 Operational Requirements

  • Before any UAS activity is conducted under the provisions of this SOPA, the RPIC will obtain permission to conduct these operations from all necessary parties. In addition to UC approval, approval may be necessary from property owners and/or local officials as necessary or appropriate. All operations may only be conducted over property where permission has been granted from the owner/ controller or authorized representative.
  • No UAS activity may occur under the provisions of this SOPA without a completed UAS Mission Binder
  • A visual observer is mandatory for all operations under this SOPA.

9.2 Pre-Flight Procedures

  • Upon preparing for flight operations, the RPIC is responsible for ensuring that all the necessary information from the completed UAS Mission Binder is available to all flight crew.
  • Emergency contact numbers and instructions must be
  • Any necessary outstanding mission documentation must be completed prior to flight operations
  • All safety equipment, including fire extinguishers must be setup and ready to deploy
  • The RPIC must conduct a Pre-Flight Briefing prior to flight operations
  • A Pre-Flight Check is mandatory prior to each flight.

9.2.1 Pre-Flight Checklist Requirements

A Pre-Flight Checklist must have, at a minimum, the following checks:

  • Inspecting the UAS to ensure it is in a condition for safe flight.

    • The UAS must have sufficient fuel or battery capacity to conduct the operation and with a sufficient reserver
    • The Ground Control Station and any other supplemental equipment such as tablets and landing pads, if used, must be included in the Pre-Flight inspection.
    • All payload equipment, including lens and memory cards, is ready for operation
  • Evaluating the current conditions of the flight operational area

  • Evaluating the current and future weather conditions

  • Verifying the flight crew is aware of and capable of conducting their role in a satisfactory manner and are in position.

  • Ensuring the airspace and operational area is appropriately clear and safe to operate within

9.3 Flight Operations

  • All Flight Personnel must remain at his or her station as listed in the Flight Operation Plan during takeoff, landing, recovery, and other critical phases of flight, except when performing those duties required for the safe operation of the aircraft.

  • The RPIC must ensure that the unmanned aircraft maintains a sufficient power reserve as recommended by the manufacturer.

  • The RPIC must terminate the flight and land the unmanned aircraft at any time it appears that the required battery reserves cannot be maintained. When terminating a flight, the primary concern must be the safety of nonparticipating persons.

  • All flight operations must be done in accordance to the prepared flight plan and as described during the pre-flight briefing. Intentional deviations are prohibited.

    • If a deviation is desired, terminate the flight and prepare a new flight plan.

9.4 Payload Manipulation

  • If it has been determined that the mission can be safely flown without a separate Payload Operator, the RPIC may not adjust or manipulate the payload in any way unless the aircraft is in a GPS-assisted or autonomous flight mode where there is no danger of collision or loss of control.
  • Payload manipulation or adjustment activities must be coordinated with the Visual Observer to ensure adequacy of see-and-avoid procedures and minimum safe distance requirements.

9.5 Recovery

  • All UAS landing and recovery will be accomplished in accordance with the Manufacturer’s Manual.

  • The UAS landing and recovery will take place at the pre-designated landing zone.

  • A designated landing zone must be as safe and secure as possible. To the extent possible, the zone should be free of any any obstacles or hazards, including but not limited to:

    • Trees or tall brush
    • Fences
    • Large rocks
    • Towers
    • Poles
    • Overhead wires
    • Dust and small pieces of debris
    • Ground vehicles
    • Other aircraft
  • Where deemed necessary, Ground Support Personnel will take necessary actions to advise all non-participants to remain a safe distance (typically 10 ft) away laterally away from the landing zone while the unmanned aircraft is landing.

  • When possible, locate landing zones such that recovery can be made into the prevailing winds.

9.6 Shutdown/Post-Flight

  • UAS shutdown and post flight actions will be taken in accordance with the Manufacturer’s Manual.

  • The RPIC must complete a post-flight summary using a Post Flight Form. The summary must include, but not be limited to:

    • Date
    • Location of Operation (including latitude/longitude)
    • Name(s) and certificate number(s) of the RPIC(s).
    • Registration of the unmanned aircraft to be flown
    • Name of the Point of Contact or Project Manager
    • The names of all flight crew including Visual Observer, Payload Operator or Ground Support Personnel.
    • Duration of Operation
    • Any issues encountered during the operation, including launch or landing damages, lost link, malfunctions, near-misses or other safety issues.
  • In the event of an non-emergency safety incident, the RPIC should document the incident and attach all relevant information with the Post Flight Form.

  • Each lost-link event that occurs during the UAS activity, must be documented in the Post Flight Form.

  • The RPIC or a properly trained Visual Observer or Ground Support Personnel must conduct a post flight aircraft inspection as recommended in the Manufacturer’s Manual.