Chapter 3 Background on UAS Regulations

There are a range of UAS related regulations that may be applicable in any given UAS activity. Different regulations may apply based on

  • Purpose
  • Location
  • Ownership

A determination of which regulations are applicable is a component of the Flight Request as described in Chapter 5.

A note on rules and regulations within the United States: When a bill written by the United States Congress is enacted, it becomes Public Law and is written into the United States Code (USC). In contrast, the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) contains all of the regulations promulgated by Executive Agencies such as the FAA. Executive Agencies are responsible for enforcement and implementation of their relevant statutes within the USC. As such, the CFR contains the regulations put in place by the FAA that put statutes from the USC into administrative practice.

The UC is held liable for all UAS activity by UC-owned UA and UAS activity for University Business. Federal law states that it is illegal to hire an aircraft operator if that operator does not have the correct airman’s certificate.1 Additionally, Federal Case law has held up that the owner of an aircraft may be held liable if an aircraft is knowingly operated illegally.2

3.1 Federal Aviation Administration Regulations

Most FAA regulations that are relevant are found within Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 107 - SMALL UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS. This set of regulations are specific for Small Unmanned Aircraft System and introduces a new FAA-issued Remote Pilot Certificate for the operation of Small Unmanned Aircraft System only. A summary and compliance list for 14 CFR 107 can be found in Chapter 25.1.

Regulations regarding the registration of sUAS are found within 14 CFR 48. For Unmanned Aircraft above 55 lbs (total take-off weight) must be registered under the regulations described in 14 CFR 47. Under 14 CFR 48, sUAS must be registered with individual registration numbers, while Unmanned Aircraft used exclusively for recreation may be registered as a group under the owner of the UA.

Starting in 2023, all drones and drone operations must be in compliance with 14 CFR 89 Remote Identification. This applies to all unmanned aircraft, including those operated for recreational or academic purposes. More information can be found on Chapter 24.

3.1.1 Model Aircraft

The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 abolished the legal terminology of ‘model aircraft.’ All aircraft without a person inside or on-top controlling it are considered ‘unmanned’ regardless of size or intent of purpose. At the time of writing, FAA has not yet propagated updated FAA regulations concerning the implementation of the replacement regulations introduced in the United States Code (See Section 3.2.1)

3.1.2 Gaps in FAA Regulations

It is a common misconception that FAA regulations are the only regulations that apply to UAS. However this is not the case. The FAA has wide domain of jurisdiction - it’s major roles include:

  • Safety Regulation
  • Airspace and Air Traffic Management
  • Air Navigation Facilities
  • Aircraft certification
  • Airman certification

The FAA however has several notable gaps as they may apply to UAS. The FAA does not have jurisdiction for rulemaking on:

  • Issues relating to privacy.
  • Issues relating to insurance requirements.
  • Issues related to negative impacts to wildlife or the environment.
  • Issues related to civil rights and liberties
  • Issues related to trespass and disturbing the peace.
  • Issues related to UAS inside buildings or in foreign airspace.

Many of these gaps are noted within the FAA’s justification of Part 107 regulations (Link).

These issues are typically addressed by other federal or state regulations. While some issues are well-known or logical, others may be misunderstood. Nonetheless, all of these issues are of concern to the UC and as such were included in the Policy.

Hyperbolic Scenarios

  • FAA regulations do not prohibit the throwing of turkeys out of aircraft.
  • FAA regulations do not prohibit spying through bathroom windows.
  • FAA regulations do not prohibit conducting aerial surveillance of strikes or protests
  • FAA regulations do not prohibit a UAS from stealing when flown indoors.
  • FAA regulations do not restrict foreign nationals from working with ITAR or other export controlled equipment.

3.2 United States Code

The overarching statutes that oversee the FAA and aviation programs are found in Title 49 of the USC, Title 49 - TRANSPORTATION, Subtitle VII - Aviation Programs. Relevant chapters include:

  • Chapter 401. General Provisions
  • Chapter 441. Registration and Recordation of Aircraft
  • Chapter 447. Safety Regulation
  • Chapter 448. Unmanned Aircraft Systems
  • Chapter 463. Penalties

3.2.1 Exception for Limited Recreational Operations of Unmanned Aircraft

The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 introduced Section 44809 to Title 49 of the USC. This section significantly altered the regulations that previously applied to ‘Model Aircraft.’ At the time of writing, the FAA has not yet promulgated updated regulations within the CFR that address the updated regulations. In the interim, the FAA is enforcing the USC statutes as necessary. Under the new statutes, certain flight operations may be exempt from 14 CFR 107 regulations if they are considered strictly recreational and abide by the safety standards set by the safety guidelines of a recognized CBO. Additionally, for the purposes of this exemption, certain academic activities, including research and coursework may be considered exempt from 14 CFR 107 regulations. More information on Limited Recreational Operations can be found in Chapter 25.2.

3.2.2 Other Relevant Statute Implications

  • Operating an aircraft without registration or any necessary airman certification can result in a penalty with a maximum of 3 years in prison and/or $250,000 fine - 49 USC 46306(b) and (d)
  • A knowing and willful violation of 49 USC 40103(b)(3) applies to cases such as the unauthorized operation of a UAS within the Washington, DC, Flight Restriction Zone. The penalty is a maximum of 1 year in prison and/or $100,000 fine - 49 USC 46307.
  • The willful interference, with the intent to endanger the safety of any person or with a reckless disregard for the safety of human life, of anyone engaged in the authorized operation of an aircraft or any air navigation facility aiding in the navigation of any such aircraft is a criminal violation that has a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and/or $250,000 fine - 18 USC 32.
  • Interference with wildfire suppression, law enforcement or emergency response effort by operation of unmanned aircraft may be penalized with a maximum of a $20,000 fine per violation - 49 USC 46320.

3.3 State and Local Regulations

In addition to federal regulations, many states, counties and municipalities are also drafting relevant UAS regulations. While the FAA has jurisdiction over the NAS, other powers may issue regulations. From the FAA, ‘laws traditionally related to state and local police power - including land use, zoning, privacy, trespass, and law enforcement operations - generally are not subject to Federal Regulations.’ Example regulations have included zoning restrictions on when and where UAS may take off or land, or extra penalties for the use of UAS in the invasion of privacy.

Examples of Local and State Laws

  • Reckless Endangerment
  • Privacy
  • Noise
  • Interference with Law Enforcement
  • Assault, Battery
  • Trespass
  • State Aviation/motor vehicle laws

3.4 International UAS regulations

Outside of the US, many countries have also adopted UAS regulations with varying levels of restrictions. Currently, there is no reciprocity between the US and any other country’s UAS regulations. There is no blanket allowance of a US certification in another country and the FAA does not recognize any other country’s UAS license. Regulations abroad are also changing rapidly and currently require regular review prior to UAS activity.

3.5 Jurisdiction of the University of California

The UC has legal standing to implement regulations, policies, or procedures of activity on University Location. This includes defining where aircraft may be launched or land, and whether persons standing on a University Location may or may not operate equipment or machinery. The UC has legal standing to implement regulations, policies or procedures for the use of any Unmanned Aircraft owned by the UC.

The UC does not have legal standing to implement regulations, policies or procedures regarding overflight of UC property as this remains the jurisdiction of the FAA. The UC may not enforce a general prohibition of any aircraft from flying above a University Location.

However, other non-aviation regulations may be violated during an overflight of a University Location and may be enforceable by law enforcement. As an example, the invasion of privacy is under state jurisdiction and within the state of California, `a person is liable for physical invasion of privacy when the person knowingly enters onto the land or into the airspace above the land of another person without permission or otherwise commits a trespass in order to capture any type of visual image, sound recording, or other physical impression of the plaintiff engaging in a private, personal or familial activity and the invasion occurs in a manner that is offensive to a reasonable person’3. Other laws, such as trespass and nuisance, may also be applicable during an overflight of a University Location.

  1. 49 USC 46306(b)(8)↩︎

  2. FAA Order No. 96-17, Docket No. CP93SO0414↩︎

  3. CA Civil Code 1708.8(a)↩︎