Promoting Safety in Unmanned Aircraft Systems: The Aviators Code Initiative and University Aviation Association

Promoting Safety in Unmanned Aircraft Systems: The Aviators Code Initiative and University Aviation Association

In an effort to address safety concerns arising from the widespread use of small unmanned aircraft, the Aviators Code Initiative (formerly the Aviators Model Code of Conduct Initiative) and the University Aviation Association released guidance aimed at advancing safety, airmanship, and professionalism among UAS pilots and operators.

The Unmanned Aircraft Systems Pilots Code (UASPC) is the product of extensive research and peer review within the manned and unmanned aviation communities. The UASPC provides a set of principles and practices to help a pilot interpret and apply standards and regulations, and confront real-world challenges and avoid mishaps.

The UASPC is designed to help UAS pilots develop and implement standard operating procedures, effective risk management, and safety management systems. It encourages UAS pilots to consider themselves aviators and participants in the broader aviation community.

The growth of unmanned aircraft operations has been so rapid that safety technologies and regulations are not yet fully developed. Nevertheless, UAS pilots bear the same obligation to operate safely as do manned pilots for whom training and safety programs are well defined and rigorously implemented. The UASPC provides a set of recommended best practices that both new and experienced UAS pilots can integrate into their operations.

The guidance is organized in seven sections:
• General Responsibilities of UAS Pilots
• Manned Aircraft and People on the Surface
• Training and Proficiency
• Security and Privacy
• Environmental Issues
• Use of Technology
• Advancement of UAS Aviation

The UASPC is available in three versions: the annotated version (with endnotes and supporting materials), the condensed version (for pilot implementation), and the abbreviated version (for an introduction to and promotion of the UASPC). The UASPC is a living document and will be updated periodically to reflect changes in standards and practice. The UAS-related materials are available free of charge at

“The UAS Pilots Code is a comprehensive guide to assist both experienced and new remote pilots in the responsible use of unmanned aircraft. With lots of uncertainty as to when, where and how one can and should operate unmanned aircraft, the UASPC is an invaluable resource to consult before any operation.” Frank Mathus, Dir. Strategy and Business Development, Thales.

“The UAS Pilots Code is a handbook the bridges the gap between manned aviation and aspiring drone pilots. It is a must-read for drone pilots seeking to learn and operate safely in the national airspace.” Brandon Montellato, University Relations Manager, DJI.

The UASPC builds upon the Aviators Code Initiative’s 16-year foundation of creating a family of aviators’ codes of conduct for general aviation pilots, flight instructors, aviation maintenance technicians, glider pilots, helicopter pilots, light sport pilots, seaplane pilots, and student pilots, as well as guidance for manned aircraft pilots operating near drones. Developed through a volunteer effort, each is available as a free public service along with supporting materials at

For more information about the UASPC, contact

Gary Mortimer

Founder and Editor of sUAS News | Gary Mortimer has been a commercial balloon pilot for 25 years and also flies full-size helicopters. Prior to that, he made tea and coffee in air traffic control towers across the UK as a member of the Royal Air Force.