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The Spring 2016 Newsletter can be downloaded from the ASP website at:



The FAA issued a major announcement on May 4th, 2016 regarding the use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (“UAS”) for educational institutions that enhances the ability of the UC system to enhance student education.

The full announcement can be found here.



Under certain conditions, students of educational institutions may use the rules for “model aircraft” ( coursework or club activities that involve the use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems, or drones.

This is a major change that will facilitate student-directed UAS flights.  Nonetheless, the FAA’s decision is limited and does not permit all types of UAS flights by students:

  • The FAA announcement applies the rules for “model aircraft” only to student clubs and student coursework that is unassociated with research projects or university business.
  • UAS flights in pursuit of research projects and university business still require FAA authorization, obtainable through the UC Center of Excellence on Unmanned Aircraft System Safety.
  • A faculty member may only provide “limited assistance” in teaching students how to fly UASs (e.g., helping a student regain control of a UAS, assisting a student in landing a UAS).
  • In addition to the FAA’s restrictions, students are subject to local campus policies regarding UAS operations.

Example Scenarios

  • A student that builds and flies a UAS as a component of a course curriculum on subjects such as science, technology, aviation, television and film production, or art is considered as model aircraft operations.
  • A student that flies a UAS as part of a final or senior design project is considered as model aircraft operations. 
  • A student project funded or sponsored by an outside entity is not considered as model aircraft operations.
  • A student that builds or flies a UAS as part of a faculty or university research is not considered model aircraft operations.
  • A course where the primary objective is on flying UASs is not considered model aircraft operations.

We recommend that any and all UAS operations performed by students under this new allowance should be monitored and documented to ensure compliance with federal law. It is also important to note that all UC campuses are within 5 miles of an airport or heliport. We also recommend caution in allowing UAS flights over UC campuses without prior campus approval to ensure compliance with model aircraft operations rules.