In 2012, CITRIS Aviation launched at UC Merced with the opening of the MESA Lab (for Mechatronics, Embedded Systems, and Automation, a multidisciplinary collaborative space that focuses heavily on airborne research: building, flying, and modifying unmanned aerial systems (UAS) as well as aerial crop monitoring and analysis make up a large part of ongoing projects.
The UC Merced campus is distinguished as the UC Center of Excellence on Unmanned Aircraft System Safety, offering expertise and ensuring regulatory compliance for UAS operations within the entire University of California system. The Center is authorized to grant certain forms of approval for UAS operations in the US via the Federal Aviation Administration.
Since then, CITRIS Aviation has expanded to UC Davis, which launched a Drone Training Academy for high school students in 2018. Taught by a FAA-approved pilot, the Drone Academy aims to expose underrepresented youth to STEM fields. UC Davis is also developing its own drone testing field.