Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or Systems/Drones

The use of unmanned aerial vehicles or systems/drones (UASs) provide faculty and student researchers access to data that may enhance research projects within existing courses, enable undergraduate capstone and Master’s thesis projects, and permit research that answers significant questions benefiting the state of California, the nation, and beyond.

The use of UAS’s offer faculty, students, staff and volunteers at SSU valuable opportunities to acquire data inexpensively in a wide range of disciplines. In addition to experience associated with programming/flying sUAV’s, student researchers benefit from the design, selection, and operation of data sensors and from the post-processing and analyses of sensor data.

While the use of UAS’s has enormous research potential, their use requires strict observance of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations, as this agency controls all navigable airspace within the United States. The FAA established specific regulations for Small UAV’s (sUAV) under 14 CFR Part 107 effective August 29, 2016.

SSU has established a UAV Review Board to ensure UAS's operated on behalf of SSU meet all state, federal, safety, institutional, ethical, and community standards and requirements related to research. Projects involving the use of UAS technology require initial and subsequent annual review. Questions about the review process should be directed to ORSP.

Federal Policy Guidance

Current UAV Review Board Membership

How to submit an application for UAS use

The following steps outline the process to gain approval to use UAS’s for research:

  • The Principal Investigator (PI) develops the Flight Operations Proposal (FOP) and submits it to the UAV Review Board for campus approval. Forms are available through the Office of Research & Sponsored Programs.
  • Upon approval of the Flight Operations Proposal by the UAV Review Board, an approval letter (or denial) will be delivered to the applicant.
  • The applicant may then purchase the sUAV/UAS through the Electronic Requisition process.
  • Flight operations may commence provided all FAA Part 107 regulations are followed throughout every component of operations and provided that a sUAV Certified Pilot is present.

Flight Operations Proposals (FOP) should minimally address the following elements:

  • Purpose, nature (research, instruction, other) and goals of the work to be undertaken.
  • Need for a UAS/sUAV.
  • Type of vehicle(s) and equipment to be utilized and the manner in which they will be operated.
  • The identity of the FAA certified sUAV pilot(s) who serves as sUAV pilot or observer.
  • Date(s)/Schedule of activities to be undertaken.
  • Locale(s) and flight plan for operations.
  • All forms of data (including imagery) to be collected.
  • Provisions for security of the equipment, both during and outside of operation, and of any sensitive data collected.
  • Sources and nature of financial support.
  • Communications plan for notifying campus police, local landowners, and police agencies, as appropriate, in the overflight radius of planned operations each time a sUAV is flown.

Careful consideration should also be given to other issues such as airworthiness, training, and access to requisite personnel, such as qualified visual observers.

All accidents that result in injury, property damage or vehicle repair must be reported to the UAV Review Board and Campus Police within 24 hours of the incident.