Unmanned Aircraft Systems (Drones)

The Division of Aeronautics is the lead division for the deployment of UAS for Caltrans business.

UAS Deployment by Caltrans Contractors and Consultants

Unmanned Aircraft Systems use on current Caltrans projects may be allowed and shall be coordinated with the Division of Aeronautics and through the Caltrans contract or project coordinator.

UAS Encroachment on the State Highway System

Operating an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS or drone) over state highways and over and around bridges can be hazardous to travelling public and the operator and may be in violation of federal regulations.

Operating a UAS from within the State Highway System (SHS) right-of-way requires a Caltrans encroachment permit.  Encroachment permit requests will only be considered when associated with authorized construction work or other permitted activities such as commercial filming, special events, surveys, or accident reconstruction.  UAS operations for other purposes such as recreation, private or business uses are not allowed.

While the Federal Aviation Administration has exclusive regulatory authority over UAS operations, as well as civilian airspace, an encroachment permit from Caltrans is required before launching from or landing a UAS within the SHS right-of-way; and before entering the SHS right-of-way to operate or participate in UAS related activities. Regardless of where the operators (remote pilot in command, visual observer, support personnel) are physically located or where the UAS is flown, operators are required to comply with all federal and State laws, and local ordinances.

Additional guidance and details can be found in Section 516.9 of the CA Department of Transportation (Caltrans) Encroachment Permits Manual available at:

Caltrans Encroachment Permits Manual

The Standard Encroachment Permit Application (TR-0100), instructions and related forms are available at:

Caltrans Encroachment Permit Forms

Encroachment Permit Application Packages must be submitted to the local District Encroachment Permits Office. Their contact information is available at:

Caltrans Encroachment Permit Application Packages

For additional information and latest updates on the Caltrans Encroachment Permits Program visit:

Caltrans Encroachment Permits Program

Commercial Filming UAS Operations

Commercial Filming UAS permit requests must be submitted to the California Film Commission at:

State Film Permits

Additional guidelines, details and resources for Commercial Filming UAS operations on state properties are available at: 

UAS – Filming with Drones


CA Department of Transportation, UAS Operations Handbook (PDF)

All Other UAS Inquiries

California Department of Transportation
Division of Aeronautics, Mail Stop 40
Office of Technical Services and Programs
P.O. Box 942874
Sacramento, CA 94274-0001

Phone: (916) 879-2965 
Email: UAS@dot.ca.gov