Chapter 12 Common UAS Policy Considerations

12.1 Indoor Use

The use of UAS of all sizes indoors is included within the scope of the Policy. Any UAS operated exclusively indoors is still considered legally a UAS, as an aircraft is defined as any contrivance invented, used, or designed to navigate, or fly in, the air4.

Though UAS that are operated exclusively indoors are exempt from FAA regulations, the Policy maintains oversight of indoor usage as their usage may still pose a safety risk, albeit easily mitigated.

Small UAS that weight less 0.55 lbs often pose little serious risk to persons, however, they may in rare situations cause property damage. One of the primary concerns of UAS of all sizes when operated indoors is damage to fire sprinklers. Mitigation may be accomplished by restricting usage to trained operators or by restricting usage within structures or implementing physical barriers to fragile items.

The Designated Local Authority or location specific policy or procedure may opt to issue specific restrictions or allowances on the use of UAS indoors. Specific flight information may not always be feasible, but should be reported when it is.

Example Statements for Indoor Use

  • Student Clubs or classes must operate within a netted structure designed to prevent damage when operating indoors.
  • No flying within dorms.
  • Small UAS under 0.55 lbs may be operated indoors in a safe manner that minimizes risk to fire sprinklers.
  • A laboratory hazard assessment must be conducted prior to any indoor UAS usage.
  • Regular indoor UAS activity must submit estimated usage rates.

12.2 Recreational UAS Use

Recreational UAS, formerly known as ‘Model Aircraft’ is a popular past-time since the dawn of modern aviation, and previously their use has largely been unregulated. However, in recent years, the regulatory landscape has undergone several changes that may be confusing. In 2012, Congress put into law the definition of Model Aircraft and the Special Rule for Model Aircraft in Public Law 112-95 (Section @ref{ch-related-info}). The Special Rule was codified in 14 CFR 101 with the publication of 14 CFR 107, but prevented the FAA from promulgating further regulations. This was repealed 6 years later in the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 which removed the legal distinction of ‘Model Aircraft,’ and introduced new statutes within the United States Code under the authority of the FAA. As of this writing, the FAA has not yet promulgated regulations however, they are enforcing some of the new statutes.

In the current implementation, the RPIC is exempt from 14 CFR 107 regulations (and Remote Pilot Certificate if the operator meets the required statutory conditions), but falls under the limited exception for recreational use. In general, the pilot must have a TRUST certificate and the UAS must be flown only for recreational purposes, must be flown with or within the programming of a CBO’s safety guidelines (such as the Academy of Model Aeronautics), must only be flown within VLOS, must be flown in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft, must only be flown at altitudes less than 400 ft above the ground, and if in controlled airspace, the operator must obtain authorization. In most scenarios, recreational operations are more limited than licensed civil operations under 14 CFR 107.

Recreational UAS activity can be made safe and appropriate in large, open fields with limited opportunities for pedestrian intrusion. However, safety considerations arise when operating in small areas, or in the vicinity of people. It is important to note that under the Academy of Model Aeronautics safety code, recreational UAS must remain a minimum of 25 ft from all persons (or further depending on the context), with the exception of the RPIC.

The use of recreational use of UAS is within the scope of the Policy to review. This enables the location specific policy or procedure or Designated Local Authority to issue restrictions or allowances on recreational UAS at a University Location. This includes open or standing approvals in specific activities that are deemed to be of low or minor risk, when appropriate procedures are implemented and abided.

Some example recreational UAS policies or procedures statements that can be considered or utilized:

  • A student club that wishes to hold a Recreational UAS club activity must submit safety documentation and reserve the appropriate space.
  • Recreational UAS activity is allowed at specific campus fields for any UC-affiliate who completes an online webinar that instructs on campus-specific policies and safety guidance.
  • Recreational UAS activity is prohibited within 100 ft of residential areas without prior approval.
  • Recreational UAS activity is prohibited during major campus events or ceremonies

It is recommended that the policies or procedures for recreational UAS include consultation with expected users and include student groups.

12.3 Non-University Business Use

All UAS activity on or within the property owned or managed by the UC must be approved before commencing. This includes when Non-University Business occurs at a University Location.

Some common instances of Non-University Business Use

The review process described in Chapter 5 remains the same. However, since they are not acting on behalf of the Regents of the University of California, they must obtain their own liability insurance and are responsible for obtaining any necessary authorization for regulatory compliance.

For departments or groups who may wish to use a UAS at a very infrequent rate, it may be more advisable to utilize an existing UC affiliated RPIC rather than hiring a 3rd Party operators.

A common scenario is found at a University Location in controlled airspace (Non-Class G airspace). The Systemwide Designated UAS Authority has obtained Airspace Authorizations for many such locations, however it is not transferable to non-University Business Use. For example, if a researcher hires a RPIC for UAS activity at a research site within a military controlled airspace, the 3rd Party RPIC must obtain their own Airspace Authorization. This also applies to students who perform a commercial service at a University Location. Even though the student is a UC student, the student’s purpose is not University Business and thus falls into Non-University Business Use.

Compliance with FAA regulations have improved since the enactment of 14 CFR 107 regulations, however, be mindful that hired 3rd Party operators are often unfamiliar with the cadence and activity of a university campus, especially around classrooms and residential dorms. The Designated Local Authority is often in the best position to advise 3rd Party operators when areas may be safe or unsafe.

Liability insurance is another common issue for 3rd Party operators. It is important to note that Aviation/UAS liability insurance is not a common rider for general or commercial liability policies, and without it, the insurance company will not pay out for any damages caused by a UAS. In most situations, Aviation/UAS liability insurance coverage must be purchased seperately. It is important for the Campus Risk Manager to vet or evaluate whether the 3rd Party has the appropriate coverage.

12.4 Emergency or First Responder Use of UAS

The Policy states that the operation of UAS by emergency first responders may be exempt from the policy based on determination of emergency needs. First responders should refer to their internal department protocols. However, the Systemwide Designated UAS Authority is available to assist in the development of first responder protocols for UAS usage.

The use of UAS is on the rise nation-wide as their potential for saving lives are realized - providing aerial views for search & rescue, monitoring for mudslides or other hazardous situations. First responders may operate under as a PAO (if a public agency, such as law enforcement) or under 14 CFR 107. All rules and regulations are applicable. Additional regulatory flexibility is provided through the FAA’s Special Governmental Interest (SGI) process (FAA Order JO 7200.23A).

12.4.1 Special Governmental Interest Process

Through its SGI process, the FAA may expedite the issuance to qualifying UAS operations of 1) addendums to pre-existing [COAs] or 2) Airspace Authorizations and Airspace Waivers to 14 CFR 107 operators.

The FAA may rapidly approve through its SGI process COA addendums and 14 CFR 107 authorizations and waivers UAS operations that:

  • Fly in airspace (including controlled airspace and disaster TFRs) and/or at altitudes not otherwise permitted.
  • Fly BVLOS.
  • Fly at night.

Obtaining approval through the SGI process

  1. You must already be an existing 14 CFR 107 RPIC with a current certificate OR you must have an existing COA. The FAA will not grant emergency approval for casual or recreational drone pilots.
  2. Fill out the Emergency Operation Request Form (MS Word) and send to the FAA’s System Operations Support Center (SOSC) at
  3. If the proposed UAS flight is to be conducted within a disaster TFR, the FAA’s SOSC, as appropriate, may need to pre-coordinate the requested operation with a responsible Incident Commander or Unified Command (IC/UC) to ensure their activity will support or, at a minimum, not interfere with broader response and recover efforts.

The FAA will then coordinate with the effected Air Traffic facilities to:

  1. Review your proposed operation and determine whether it meets the necessary criteria for emergency approval.
  2. Implement any necessary mitigations to minimize impact on other air traffic operations.
  3. Contact you within one hour or sooner regarding the status of your request or to request additional information.

If approved, the FAA will add an amendment to your existing COA or Remote Pilot Certificate that authorizes you to fly under certain conditions for the specified operation.

If denied, operators should NOT fly outside the provisions of their existing COA or 14 CFR 107. Operators have the option to amend their requests.

12.5 International Students, Visiting Scholars and Undocumented Students

The UC attracts students, staff and faculty from all around the world. This unfortunately can complicate the already complex UAS regulatory environment. There are two issues: 1) obtaining a 14 CFR 107 Remote Pilot Certificate and 2) operating under 14 CFR 107. It is possible for it to be legal for a foreign national to obtain a 14 CFR 107 Remote Pilot Certificate but not be eligible to use it for a specific purpose.

12.5.1 Eligibility for a 14 CFR 107 Remote Pilot Certificate

The Remote Pilot Certificate does not require U.S. citizenship.


  • Be at least 16 years of age
  • Be able to read, speak and understand the English language. If the applicant is unable to meet one of these requirements due to medical reasons, the FAA may place such operation limitations on that applicant’s certificate as are necessary for the safe operation of the small unmanned aircraft.
  • Not know or have reason to know that he or she has a physical or mental condition that would interfere with the safe operation of a small unmanned aircraft system.

However, to take the FAA Airman Knowledge Exam, the proponent must prove their identity with a valid photo ID that includes their date of birth, signature and physical, residential address.

For U.S. Citizens and U.S. Resident Aliens, this may be accomplished with one of the following:

  • Driver Permit or License issued by a U.S. state or territory
  • U.S. Government Identification Card
  • U.S. Military Identification Card
  • Passport
  • Alien Residency Card

For Non-U.S. Citizens, this may be accomplished with one of the following:

  • Passport and a Driver permit or license issued by a U.S. state or territory.
  • Passport and an Identification card issued by any governmental entity.

12.5.2 Foreign Nationals operating an sUAS

While a foreign national is permitted to obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate, there are additional federal regulations that apply, and in some cases, certain activity requires additional permitting or may be prohibited completely. Under federal law, an aircraft operated by a foreign national in civil airspace is generally considered a foreign registered aircraft and is subject to regulations found in 14 CFR 375.

It is important to note that this restriction applies only for UAS and sUAS for non-recreational activity. Any use under recreational operations, such as individual recreation, club recreation or approved academic activity, is not subject to 14 CFR 375 restrictions.

How this applies:

  • An international student with a Remote Pilot Certificate may operate a UC-owned sUAS for specific University Business.
  • An international student with a Remote Pilot Certificate may not operate a personally-owned sUAS for University Business or for other non-recreational activity without at 14 CFR 375 permit.
  • An international student may conduct recreational UAS activity for personal recreation
  • An international student may conduct recreational UAS activity for a classroom homework assignment, senior project, or approved academic activity, including research.

###Undocumented Students The University of California is home to many undocumented students, including those enrolled in Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The University of California is steadfast in ensuring the education of all students admitted into the UC regardless of their immigration status5. This section addresses the UAS restrictions and opportunities for undocumented students.

Unfortunately, since the Remote Pilot Certificate is a federal certificate, it requires a federally recognized identification. Statewide initiatives such as AB60 Driver’s Licenses are not valid as identification for the FAA Airman Knowledge Exam.

Students with a DACA identification card are eligible to take the FAA Airman Knowledge Exam. For the purposes of Part 107, they are not considered foreign nationals and may operate under Part 107.

It is important to note that there are three alternative solutions for undocumented students to utilize UAS in their education.

  • Undocumented students are not restricted to operate recreational UAS operations. This applies to the use of UAS for individual recreation, club recreation or for approved academic activities such as coursework, senior projects or academic research.
  • Undocumented students are not restricted to operate UAS in indoor facilities, such as outdoor drone cages or inside UC buildings. Undocumented students may engage in UAS related research in any location where FAA regulations are not applicable.
  • For outdoor usage, if a licensed UAS operation is necessary, undocumented students may be in control of a UAS if and only if the student is under the direct supervision of a licensed RPIC and the RPIC has the ability to immediately take direct control of the flight of the sUAS.