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Category - State PArks,Regulations,California
Posted - 08/22/2017 02:08pm
Is it legal to fly a drone in a California State Park?
Blaine Transue
August 22nd, 2017

I was asked recently if it was legal to fly a drone in a California State Park, and since it was a very good question, I did some research to see if there was an answer. 

That answer is, yes, technically it's "legal", but not necessarily allowed.

That legality is constrained by "posted" notices by any given State Park District. CA state parks are divided into districts and each district can post it's own drone regulations, limitations and restrictions of use on a park by park basis. They are also free to impose non-posted restrictions at their discretion, i.e., tell you to stop for any number of reasons including that it's disruptive to other visitors or frightening the chipmonks.

This is from the official page on the State of CA website regarding the matter. This regulation went into affect in August of 2016 and there don't appear to have been any updates since as this page is still live.

Drones are currently allowed in State Parks, State Beaches, State Historic Parks, State Recreational Areas, and State Vehicular Recreation Areas except where prohibited by a District Superintendent's posted order. Posted orders may prohibit drones for numerous reasons, including: protection of threatened species; threats to cultural and natural resources; high fire danger; public safety; recreational conflicts; impacts upon visitor experience privacy; and park unit classification. Therefore, drone users should always check with their local State Park District for any specific posted orders.

Note the "except where prohibited" part, especially this line "recreational conflicts; impacts upon visitor experience privacy; and park unit classification" It's an important one. The first 2, recreational conflicts and impacts upon visitor experience leave the door pretty far open, although, they might be hard to defend on a day or time when perhaps there were no other visitors. The last one, "park unit classification" applies to the type of park it is. 

There are already existing restrictions as to which parks any specific type of motorized vehicle might be used in , for example, and these rules apply to drones as well, one would assume, of any type, flying or not.

Drones in State Wilderness Areas, Natural Preserves, and Cultural Preserves:
State Park regulations prohibit the use of motorized equipment (including UASs) within wilderness areas, cultural preserves, and natural preserves (Cal. Code Regs. tit. 14, § 4351.) Therefore, drone users should always check the designation of the park unit before operating a drone.

The bottom line here is, it's it's a protected area or preserve, you can't do it, but that's no surprise as you can't take your motorcycle or leaf blower in there either, and you have to stay 2000' above them in an airplane. This isn't a new regulation, and since drones are motorized, their use is prohibited under the same rule.

So, yes, it may be "legal" or "allowed" in certain state parks as far as the state park system is concerned, but it's left up to the local state park district superintendent's to post and impose any additional regulations they feel are necessary within a given park, and these rules and regulations can be based on just about anything from breaking the serenity to public safety. 

Additionally, this "allowance" all depends on the capacity in which you are flying your drone. 

If you're flying your drone recreationally, i.e., not for any commercial purpose, you can basically contact the district, get the posted (and non-posted) rules, fly your drone (safely) within those rules and regulations (along with the FAA's of course) and be on your way. You might even let them know when and where you're going to do it when you call to get the rules, that way they can field any calls or complaints they might receive.

Here's what the State has to say about recreational drone use in California State Parks.

Recreational Drones:
California State Parks recommends that recreational drone users check with their local State Park District before operating a UAS within a State Park. Each park unit may have its own posted orders. Even absent a posted order on drones, it is within the discretion of park staff to contact drone operators when drones threaten visitors, property, wildlife, or privacy. If a drone operator continues to fly in a dangerous or reckless manner, they may be asked to stop flying and remove the drone from park boundaries.

If a state park district doesn't prohibit drone use altogether, and you can actually fly your drone within the posted guidelines and regulations, you should probably consider yourself very lucky. Letting them know when and where just makes them that much more aware of respectful drone operators. After all, most of our flights only last a few minutes and for the most part, aren't that disruptive to the local environment, so give them a heads up, they'll probably actually appreciate it.

You can find Contact Information for the State Park Districts in California here

For Commercial operators, I'm afraid the answer is not so simple.

Yes, it's "legal" to commercially operate a drone in California State Parks per the same rule that allows it for recreational hobbyists to do so, but there are even more requirements to meet before you can "legally" fly in a California State Park. In addition to all of the above, commercial operators need to receive special authorization and will require several permits, including one from the CA Film Commission.

Here's how the state website outlines it.

Commercial Drones:
The FAA requires commercial drone operators to receive special authorization; either a Section 333 Exemption or a Special Airworthiness Certificate. The FAA defines commercial drone use as, among other things: filming for hire; selling aerial photography or videography; inspections for hire; surveying for hire; or flying to further a business purpose. Operating a drone for commercial purposes within a state park also requires a permit. Commercial Drone users must submit a copy of their FAA authorization to the appropriate State Park District(s). Depending on the proposed use, the District Superintendent may require a Special Event permit, Right of Entry permit, or other approval. Further, commercial photography or filming within State Park also requires a permit from the California Film Commission. (Cal. Code Regs. tit. 14, § 4316.)

Download the Guidelines on filming in CA State Parks

Keep in mind as well, that some state parks may very well fall under FAA/ATC controlled airspace and in those instances, additional "waivers" will be required from the FAA to conduct the flight at all. Conducting a commercial sUAS flight in controlled airspace is illegal anywhere in the US and doing so risks the license of the operator. When I last checked, and applied for one, the waiting period for waiver approval was at least 90 days, without any guarantee, so you have to plan ahead if you want to film commercially in a state park, especially one under controlled airspace.

Similar rules apply to research and government drone operations, although they don't appear to require the permit from the film commission.

Research Drones:

Drones may prove a valuable tool for scientific research and surveys. Operation of a drone for research purposes requires approval from the FAA. Before operating a drone for research purposes within a state park, please submit a copy of your FAA authorization to the appropriate State Park District(s). California State Parks requires a scientific collection permit (DPR 65) for any scientific research and surveys within a State Park.

Public Agency Drones:

The FAA requires public entities to obtain a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) to operate public aircraft. Before operating a drone for governmental purposes within a state park, please submit a copy of your COA to the appropriate State Park District(s).

So there's the lowdown on flying your drone in a California State Park. The bottom line is, you need to contact the district to which the park belongs and ask them about their specific drone regulations, and if you're flying commercially, you'll also need FAA approval and permits.

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (drones) in CA State Parks (official State page)

State Park District Offices

CA State Park Film Guidelines

Category - Safety,Public Concern,Regulations
Posted - 01/18/2017 03:44pm
North Royalton considering banning drones from public areas

Posted 6:36 pm, January 17, 2017, by
Fox 8 Cleveland

NORTH ROYALTON, Ohio - There's a new push to keep drones grounded in public areas in North Royalton, much to the dismay of drone advocates. Opponents of the proposed legislation argue it makes flying drones anywhere other than front and back yards impossible.

"What's the point of that? What's the point of flying it around your house? You want to have it outside so you can explore the world around you. I think they're cool to have," said resident Cyle Gaffney.

Councilman Dan Langshaw is behind the ordinance discussed at a Tuesday safety committee meeting. The legislation would ban flying drones above or adjacent to public parks, schools, property owned by the city, school district, public utilities or other public entities.

Langshaw says he is pushing for the new rules because of surveillance concerns voiced by residents about drones getting too close for comfort.

"They thought somebody was flying a drone and they're like 'is there anything the city can do about it?' I looked into it and we have nothing on the books to regulate this," said Langshaw.

Some residents argue the Federal Aviation Administration already regulates drone use. Adding local rules only complicates an already confusing set of guidelines.

"I could see it flying over crowds and football stadiums but if you have a big open space like this [referencing a nearby park] and there's really nobody around I don't see the harm in that," said resident Gregory Loder who is considering buying a drone.

Langshaw says he wouldn't describe drone usage as problematic in the city. However he cautions additional rules only help police who are often caught in the middle of arguments about drone surveillance.

"To anyone that's a critic [arguing] 'oh the FAA can just handle it'. Well that's fine and dandy but when there are issues again people are not going to be calling the FAA. They're going to call local law enforcement then they're going to be wondering what are they going to do because we really don't have any guidance," said Langshaw.

Violators of the drone ban could be charged with a misdemeanor. Ordinance details are still being finalized.