Unmanned Aerial Systems

Unmanned Aerial Systems or Sensors (UAS) are remote controlled aircraft for the purpose of data collection, including mapping. They are a combination of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV aka:Drone), with a sensor (camera, Lidar, Thermal camera, etc) usually flown with an auto-pilot system for accurate data collection.

At UC Davis there are many groups utilizing UAS for different research, including but not limited to agriculture, natural resources, cinematography, and aerospace engineering.

Flying for Research or other University Business

All non-recreational flying (not a hobby), which includes research, falls under FAA (Part 107) and University regulations.

  • A Part 107 license holder must be the Pilot in Charge.
  • All aircraft must be registered with the FAA (register per aircraft)
  • All flights must be pre-approved via the Drone application on the UCOP Environmental Health and Safety portal. https://ehs.ucop.edu

See Transportation Services for UC Davis guidelines, and full details can be found on the UC Center of Excellence on Unmanned Aircraft System Safety.

If you are a campus affiliate conducting flights or owning aircraft we recommend you subscribe to our UAS Operations mailing list to communicate with other pilots and operators.

Flying on Campus

You need to get permission from Environmental Health and Safety, see the Safety Services website for details. Please file at least 7 days in advance. Due to university policies you generally can not fly over people, and are responsible for ensuring people stay out of your flying area.

Depending on where on campus you may need to notify and reserve the space. If you fly near the University Airport you will need to deliver a NOTAM (notice to airmen) in person at least 24 hours in advance. Safety Services also offers forms for this.

Flying for Classes

There are special rules around students learning to fly and using UAS as part of a course. Please consult UC Center of Excellence on Unmanned Aircraft System Safety. Be sure to keep an eye on our courses page as some of these include flight training.

Learning to Fly

  • There are 2 local Academy of Model Aeronautics clubs who offer introductory lessons. For a fee you can also join the clubs to access their flight facilities which are great for training new pilots and testing equipment.
  • Students, join the UC Davis Drone Club which provides discounted Academy of Model Aeronautics membership.
  • Flight Simulator – If you would like to use a computer based flight simulator (with R/C controller) please contact Alex Mandel.
  • UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) offers a Drone Camp. (Dates and Location vary)
  • Students, be sure to keep an eye on our courses page as some of these include flight training or demonstrations.


If you are looking to explore UAS for your research, or need tips on aircraft, training, sensors, etc… please join the geospatial mailing list.

Current Campus Groups Using UAS