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Drones at the University

Unauthorized Drone Use
Our proximity to the airport and concerns over safety, security and privacy do not allow for the personal use of drones* on campus. The only allowable use of drones at SCU is for educational purposes.

If you witness an unauthorized drone flight on campus (or are unsure if a drone flight has been authorized), please call Campus Safety Services at 408-554-4444 as soon as possible.

Under FAA rules, the main SCU campus is in controlled airspace due to the close proximity of the airport. Flights may only occur with FAA permission.  

Drones for Education

The rules for flying drones are based on the purpose of the operation. There are a few options for flying for educational purposes.

Limited Exception for Recreational Flyers and Community-Based Organizations

There is an exception (49 U.S.C. § 44809) that allows flying drones for recreational purposes (under certain conditions) without complying with Part 107. In order to fly under the statutory exception, you must comply with all portions of Section 44809, including flying your drone for recreational purposes

Learn more about flying under the Exception for Recreational Flyers

Part 107

Part 107 (14 CFR part 107) is the primary law for flying small drones (less than 55 pounds) in the United States. You can fly under part 107 rules for many reasons, including work or business, recreation, education, or for public safety missions.

Learn more about flying under part 107

Educational Institutions

There is also a statutory provision (P.L. 115-254, Section 350 (PDF), as amended by P.L. 116-283, Section 10002) that clarifies that education and research uses of drones for educational purposes can be operated under the rules for recreational flyers. This includes programs for institutes of higher education, programs run by JROTC, and educational programs chartered by a recognized Community Based Organization.

Learn the rules for recreational flyers

At the University, the current policy prohibits the use of drones for:

  • Faculty research
  • Selling photos or videos taken from a drone
  • Using a drone to provide contract services such as wedding photography, photography of the campus, photography of campus roofing and for other inspections.

The only allowable use of drones at SCU is for educational purposes.

Students can learn how to design, construct and operate drones as a component of their coursework such as in connection with science, technology, engineering, film or photography courses.

As of March 2018, the School of Engineering Robotic Systems Laboratory is the only group that is allowed to fly on campus for any educational purpose.  

For SCU departments, schools and the college that desire to fly for educational purposes, the School of Engineering Robotic Systems Laboratory may be able to fly on your behalf.

There is a flight request process which asks for specifics about flight purpose, UAS system, payload and pilot.

In order to get approval to fly, requesters must follow a Three Step Process

1) File a UAS Flight Project Permit Request to

  • The Flight Project Permit request helps the UAS Group determine if: 
    • the Flight Project meets university requirements for the purpose, platform, pilot and procedures to be used when flying.
    • It DOES NOT provide authority to fly.
    • Approved Flight Projects must file UAS Flight Plan Requests
    • Approval of UAS Flight Plan Requests may take up to 5 days to process.

2) With the above approved, file a UAS Flight Plan Request to

  • The Flight Plan Request helps the UAS Group determine:
    • Where the flight will take place on campus. Due proximity to Mineta San Jose Airport, the FAA only allows for flight over certain areas of campus. See Campus FAA Airspace approval map.
    • Confirm the Pilot in Command remains licensed
    • Confirms the type of drone to be used
    • Confirms that the pilot and crew are prepared to ensure safe operation and to prevent non-participants from entering the flight operations area

 3) With the above approved, create a flight plan via the AirMap app (android, iOS, web-based)

  • This use of AirMap is the FAA authorization to fly over campus.
  • Submit the approval as soon as possible in the form of a screenshot to with all associated flight plan details.
  • Note that there specific parts of campus that allows for automatic FAA approval within the app itself (flights below 200 feet). See Campus FAA Airspace approval Map.

*For SCU purposes, the term “drones” includes Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA), remote control hobby craft airplanes and copters.

Here you will find the most current information for UAS at Santa Clara University
  • Summary of Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule (Part 107)
  • Know Before You Fly: An education campaign founded by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) and the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) in partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to educate prospective users about the safe and responsible operation of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS)
Santa Clara University uses AirMap for automated airspace authorization on all approved* flights below 200 feet in specific areas on campus. AirMap utilizes LAANC, the Low-Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability.

*Flights are approved ONLY through the University's UAS Group.