Chapter 5 Review of UAS Activity

5.1 General Procedures

The Flight Request process provides the University of California the ability to validate whether the proposed use complies with the Policy that requires all operations are performed in a manner that mitigates risks to safety, security, privacy and ensures compliance with any applicable regulation. All persons seeking to operate a UAS covered within the Policy must submit a UAS Request Form to the Designated Local Authority or Systemwide Designated UAS Authority if a Designated Local Authority has not been appointed for a University Location.

The Policy requires that the review of a proposed operation must be responded to within two weeks.

Approvals for UAS activity may be granted in many forms:

  • Single or set of UAS flights during a specific time-window
  • Set of UAS flights over a defined period of time
  • Scheduled recurrent UAS flights at a defined location
  • Unscheduled UAS usage at a series of predefined locations
  • Standing approvals

Records of approval and the terms of the approval must be kept by the Designated Local Authority and the Systemwide Designated UAS Authority.

5.2 Submission of UAS Request Form

The UAS Request Form is a documented request of UAS activity. An example form can be made available by a Designated Local Authority or Systemwide Designated UAS Authority (Figure 5.1). The Policy does not mandate a specific form or system for submitting a UAS Request Form. UC Risk and Safety Solutions has developed UC Drones UAS Request Form as a means to standardize request information and is available for all UC campuses. A University Location may also establish a specialized for any UAS activity as long as it collects sufficient information to conduct a review of the UAS activity to ensure Policy compliance (Figure 5.2).

Example UAS Flight Request Form - UC Drones

Figure 5.1: Example UAS Flight Request Form - UC Drones

Example UAS Flight Request Form - UCSD

Figure 5.2: Example UAS Flight Request Form - UCSD

5.3 Reviewer of UAS Activity

The Policy grants authority to review UAS activity to the Systemwide Designated UAS Authority and the Designated Local Authority. Per the Policy, the Systemwide Designated UAS Authority may review UAS activity unless a Designated Local Authority is assigned to review UAS activity at a campus. In many cases, the Designated Local Authority is in a better position to evaluate the safety and impacts to privacy of UAS activity on their location.

As per the relationship between the Systemwide Designated UAS Authority and Designated Local Authority, the Systemwide Designated UAS Authority will provide interpretation of regulations, including international, federal, state and local, and provide subject matter expertise to the Designated Local Authority to pass the final judgment. It is expected that as campuses become more familiar with UAS regulations and their use, the majority of use cases may be handled completely by the Designated Local Authority.

A location specific policy or procedure may further establish the role of the Designated Local Authority and other campus entities that may be granted autonomy to review UAS activity.

5.4 Criteria Used to Evaluate UAS Activity

The Policy mandates that all UAS activity within the scope of the policy must be approved prior to flight. The review process must include:

  • Review of compliance with applicable regulations (Section 5.4.1) and includes Export Control (Section 5.4.2).
  • Review of impacts to safety (Section 5.4.3).
  • Review of impacts to privacy, civil rights and liberties (Section 5.4.4).
  • Review of insurance (Section 5.4.5).

The review process may additionally include

  • Prioritization of University Business
  • Approval of facility manager or other local authority
  • Approval or consent of persons that may be impacted by the proposed operation
  • Previous documented flight experience or expertise
  • Impacts to wildlife or other environmental concerns

5.4.1 Evaluation of Regulatory Compliance

UAS regulations are regularly evolving; there are multiple legal pathways within the US and internationally. The Policy does not mandate exclusive compliance with a particular set of regulations. The Systemwide Designated UAS Authority is responsible for providing the interpretation to regulations for the Designated Local Authority.

Civil Regulations for Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (14 CFR 107) - A large portion of UAS activity within the UC system falls under the regulations in 14 CFR 107. There are 22 points of compliance as outlined in the 14 CFR 107 compliance list found in Section 25.1. If further regulations are issued that provide alternative legal pathways, they may be utilized without requiring modification to policy. By default within the United States, all UAS operations in the NAS are regulated under 14 CFR 107 unless it meets the exception criteria for limited exception for recreational purposes, PAO or with a Section 333 Exemption. Operators under 14 CFR 107 must have a Remote Pilot Certificate.

Exception for Limited Recreational Operations of Unmanned Aircraft - UAS activity may be exempt from 14 CFR 107 regulations if the flight operations complies with the exception for limited recreational operations of unmanned aircraft as described in 49 USC 44809. While this typically covers recreational activity, in specific situations academic research and coursework may also be covered. More information can be found in Section 25.2. Operators under this exception must have a TRUST Certificate.

Public Agency Operations (14 CFR 91) - UAS activity may be conducted under 14 CFR 91 regulations when classified as a Public Agency Operation with a Public Aircraft. UAS activity requested as an Public Agency Operation should be reviewed on a case-by-case basis as these authorizations are often specific to an aircraft, location, purpose and organization, and may contain special restrictions or allowances. The Systemwide Designated UAS Authority is available to review and issue an interpretation for compliance.

International Regulations - UAS activity conducted outside of the US are subject to the host country’s regulations. The Systemwide Designated UAS Authority maintains a database of international UAS regulations and will provide an interpretation of regulations as requested.

State or Local Regulations - Many states and cities have begun to implement local authority over UAS activity. There is currently no central database of such regulations, so these must be identified and reviewed on a case-by-case basis. The Systemwide Designated UAS Authority maintains a database of common state and local regulations requested by UC UAS activity. While the FAA maintains sole jurisdiction of the NAS, state and local authorities may enact regulations related to traditional police powers such as land use planning and zoning, health, safety and advertising.

5.4.2 Evaluation of Compliance with Export Control

Certain UAS may be export controlled under US Export Regulations and, as such, may not be physically exported outside the United States without a license from the US government. In addition, a license may be required if foreign nationals located within the US are provided access to the technology related to such systems (deemed exports). All UC individuals or organizations that intend to design, build, research, use in research, modify, dismantle, and/or operate a UAS in foreign countries and/or with foreign nationals in the US or abroad must do so in accordance with the Export regulations and the UC Export Control Policy. Documentation of UC-owned unmanned aircraft is additionally available for Export Control personnel to review.

5.4.3 Evaluation of Impacts with Safety

The review of the UAS activity is limited to the scope of campus or public safety. It does not review all safety implications.

As applicable, the Designated Local Authority or Systemwide Designated UAS Authority should review for

  • Mitigation strategies for

    • Pedestrian Safety
    • Vehicular Safety
    • Loss of Control
  • Crowd Control

  • Sensitive Locations

Not all UAS activity will require a detailed review for minor or low risk activity. A primary means of mitigation for safety impacts is to relocate UAS activity to large, open areas away from non-participating persons.

The review of safety does not absolve the RPIC’s responsibility to maintain a safe operating environment. The safety aspect of the review does not consider:

  • Weather conditions
  • Obstructions from ground hazards (Trees, temporary structures)
  • Previous unrecorded flight experience

5.4.4 Evaluation of Impacts with Privacy, Civil Rights and Liberties

The use of UAS is still relatively new and there is still much trepidation regarding privacy, civil rights, liberties and UAS. Compliant with other UC policies regarding privacy, UAS activity must respect the privacy of others and not infringe on their civil rights and liberties.

The perceived invasion of privacy is additionally to be avoided. It is unlikely that a proponent would blatantly propose activity that would invade a person’s privacy. However, there may be proposed activity that may be perceived as potentially invading privacy. An example of this would be in UAS activity in close proximity to residential buildings. Regardless of the intent or business nature of the UAS activity, unless mitigating strategies are employed, such activities should be prohibited. Best practices regarding UAS activity are listed in Chapter 15.

5.4.5 Evaluation of Compliance with Insurance

All UAS activity must be covered by liability insurance. The UC provides automatic coverage for UAS activity for UC-owned Unmanned Aircraft. Additionally, personally owned Unmanned Aircraft used for University Business can be covered if the UAS activity is approved.

All 3rd Party UAS activity must submit appropriate insurance, including a written agreement which indemnifies and holds the University harmless from any resulting claims or harm to individuals and damage to University property.

More details are provided in Chapter 9.

5.5 Other Factors

At a minimum, the above criteria are necessary to be reviewed. However, there may be other factors that may be utilized at the discretion of a Designated Local Authority in accordance with a location specific policy or procedure.
This may include but is not limited to:

  • Prioritization of University Business.
  • Risk Score of UAS activity.
  • Approval of facility manager or other local authority.
  • Approval or consent of persons that may be impacted by the proposed operation.
  • Previous documented flight experience or expertise.
  • Impacts to wildlife or other environmental concerns.

There are currently only limited existing standards for UAS activity that may or may not be applicable within the UC system. A location specific policy or procedure may elect to adopt standards as they are developed. It is intended that the Systemwide Designated UAS Authority will continue to evaluate and provide recommendations for specific standards.

5.6 Relationship of a UC Review Process with Applicable Regulations

The University of California requires that all UAS activity comply with all applicable regulations, at the international, federal, state and local levels, as well as mitigates risks to safety, security and privacy. Additionally, a Designated Local Authority may choose to review other factors.

It is foreseeable that otherwise legal UAS activity may be prohibited or require modification by either the Designated Local Authority or Systemwide Designated UAS Authority.

Example of potential scenarios:

  • Non-essential UAS activity in the vicinity of dorms where privacy concerns exist.
  • UAS activity where the use of a UAS would disrupt other University Business such as commencement ceremonies or campus events.
  • Proposed UAS activity that conflict with other previously approved UAS activity.
  • Proposed UAS activity that is likely to violate FAA regulations such as direct flyovers of large areas of a busy campus.
  • Proposed UAS activity requires the reservation of an athletics field that is occupied.
  • Proposed UAS activity is above a preferred flight altitude limit for a specific location and may interfere with medical helicopter activity.

The review by a Designated Local Authority or Systemwide Designated UAS Authority also includes state or local regulations at sites such as California State Parks or County Park Systems. A UAS activity may be considered legal under FAA regulations, but may be prohibited by other regulations, and thus would not be approved. Due to the vast diversity of regulations at the state and local level, a review process may take longer at those sites.

5.7 Terms of Approval

In some cases, UAS activity approval may require additional terms or conditions. These may arise from UAS activity where additional flexibility is requested, such as recurrent UAS activity in a low-risk location. The Designated Local Authority or Systemwide Designated UAS Authority may attach additional requirements or procedures at their discretion.

Items to consider as part of the Terms of Approval

  • Frequency of reporting.
  • Currency requirements of the RPIC.
  • Procedures to address rescheduling.
  • Procedures for accident notification.

Example language that may be used in Terms of Approval can be found in Chapter 20.