Research Integrity and Safety

Operation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems

Operation of an unmanned aircraft system (UAS), also referred to as a drone, is governed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). UAS flights are regulated differently depending on their purpose: commercial use, public use, or hobby/recreational use.

All flight by UGA faculty or staff related to research is considered commercial use by the FAA.The FAA recently adopted new regulations that make it easier to fly a small UAS for commercial purposes. The requirements are:

  • The UAS must:
    • Weigh less than 55 pounds
    • Undergo pre-flight check by the pilot in command to ensure safety of the aircraft
    • Be registered with the FAA via the Online UAS Registration
  • Each UAS flight must have an identified pilot in command. The pilot must:
  • The location of the flight must:
    • Be in Class G airspace –OR–
    • Be authorized by Air Traffic Control if in Class B, C, D, or E airspace
      (Note that all of the UGA main campus in Athens is within Class D airspace)

To discuss next steps and additional operational guidelines, UGA faculty and staff who would like to fly a UAS for research purposes should contact Matt Wells, Legal Advisor in the Office for Research: or 706-542-3255.

Additional Information

FAA “Know Before You Fly”