Worth Owning a Drone in California

Jun 20, 2017
Hey Guys,

I am thinking about picking up a Mavic Pro soon but wondering if it's truly worth it given all the restrictions flying around the Bay Area and other California areas. The rules seem to be quite confusing. Would love if anyone had some more details on this.

I would love to pack up the drone in my bag while hiking in the numerous county/state parks and take it to the beach.

Jan 29, 2015
Salt Lake City, UT
CA is tough... especially with Feinstein in the Senate. She's always been on a drone witch hunt and does not mind ignoring the US Constitution when it suits this hunt.

Personally, I avoid state, city and most county parks. To be more details, parks with any type of rule signs posted. Some county parks near me are just open areas with no entrances or real parking. Where I normally fly are either from public sidewalks and/or roads or BLM land (public land). An example is if I want to film the UT State Capitol building. I fly while standing on a public parking lot or sidewalk.

But I feel your pain! Some many parties are making illegal law and so many laws in general about drones that it's next to impossible to know where you can and cannot fly and how to fly. Think about it... every county, city and state seems to make up their own laws. You can't fly over this height, you need to fly under this height, you can't fly close to this, you can only fly in this area, you need to pay a fee, etc. Sometimes the only way to know if someone considers flying to be legal... is to do it and be told/cited.

So it's a challenge. Some people are not up to this challenge. Personally, I want to fly legally but I also know that most the local laws are illegal and being used to simply harass flyers. Things are in a flux right now. It's a tough call.
Jul 26, 2016
It really depends on the badge of the day who runs into you and what rules or ordinances they pull out of their hat, or even make-up. CA really is a mess from city to city and park to park to make a solid call on. CA seems to be unlike Arizona where they post signage in some parks as to whether you can fly a drone there or not and where. Many CA state parks are a judgment call by the superintendent of that park on allowing drones to fly there or not. Some can get snobby about having some sUAV million dollar liability insurance too to even fly there.

Some state park info is here on commercial and some super's are more aware of it now and applying it generally to all, and I see even CalTrans is getting into the mix too: http://film.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/UAS-Use-Requirements.pdf

Fwiw, I've written to my local CA councilman regarding flying for fun or training and got zero info back, but least I asked and they have it on file should I need it later for defense. So it gets back to who complains about what and what badge interaction you get into. It's tantamount to shooting guerilla style on the streets of LA now sans a permit and because you have some expensive DSLR and the badge will call your shoot "commercial" (His judgement call on ticketing and leaves it for the judge to figure out.) and not having a permit gets you a citation.

CA is so over-ridden with film commissioners for every county and town as well that it's a burden no thanks to Hollywood. If you ask one, you'll be shocked at the hoops and expense to do some aerial work legally, and by the day or hour too. But at least no one can hassle you if you have all the paperwork in order. The other problem is that they are on the high end public payroll so their fees may seem reasonable to them, but try and sell their high fee to someone you are shooting for and they'll think you are ripping them off.

Drones are pretty much like owning a gun in CA. If someone in your apartment sees you taking a legally owned rifle or hand-gun to your car in the carport and calls it in as "suspicious," your day won't go well. Same for drones and "tresspassing" or "privacy invasion" call-ins.

Good luck - and it often really is in CA.
Likes: Koptervision

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