Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) at California State University

Unmanned Aerial Systems 

Throughout the CSU System, unmanned aerial systems (UAS), otherwise known as “drones”, are emerging as a powerful tool for both research and education initiatives. UAS are used for a variety of applications across a diverse array of disciplines, ranging from resource management and geomorphology to computer science and mathematics. Through the implementation of UAS based research and education programs, students and faculty are able to acquire datasets that may otherwise be inaccessible or unobtainable. UAS can enhance curricula within existing classes, enable undergraduate or graduate level work, and augment research to answer pressing academic questions.

All campuses within the CSU system must comply with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirements for the use of UAS for education and research purposes, along with all state and/or municipal statutes pertaining to their usage. Furthermore, the inherent risks associated with the operation of UAS requires additional insurance provisions and policy considerations for each campus interested in using these systems. It is advised that all campuses develop policies that mitigate safety, security, and privacy risks, as well as ensure compliance with the legal obligations of UAS piloting.

Recent changes by the FAA allows for UAS to be used by faculty for research, or educational purposes, without the need for a Section 333 Exemption or a Certificate of Authorization (COA) from the FAA. Faculty must be certified as a “Remote Pilot in Command” by taking the aeronautical knowledge test. Coupled with the other recent ruling by the FAA on student use for educational purposes, we now have regulations that should govern the use of UAS on our campuses by faculty, staff, and students.

The resources provided here are for campuses within the CSU system, and beyond, who are interested in establishing new policies for UAS based programs, or are seeking to update policies already in place. 

UAS surveying meadow in Sierra Nevada