On quadcopters…

I’ve been having a bit of fun with my DJI quadcopter lately, but there is something that is annoying me and stressing me in the back of my head, and that’s surrounding the legality of flying quadcopters.

Basically, it’s impossible to determine with any certainty whether flying your quadcopter in any particular place is legal.

Consider my very first time flying with the DJI Phantom 2:



Within minutes of putting birds in the air, the police roll up and inform us that it’s illegal to fly in East Bay Regional Parks. You might imagine that you’d be able to find this rule somewhere: go ahead and read their rules and regulations. This webpage makes the claim that drones are illegal under Ordinance 38, but I was unable to locate any mention of that in the actual ordinance. The term “drone” doesn’t appear in the ordinance. The word video only appears once in section 702, which covers commercial filming, which I was uninterested in. There doesn’t seem to be any regulations covering remote controlled aircraft in Eastbay Parks at all.

Is it illegal? I don’t know. I’m really not interested in engaging in a confrontation with a police officer about it though, so I’m not flying there. Even if it isn’t illegal, you could probably be stupidly cited under some noise ordinance or failing to cooperate with police. Who needs that headache?

So, the question is, where can you actually fly? And where can you be sure that flying is legal?

For those who would argue against spying or presenting a hazard to pedestrians or other park goers, look at the video again. We chose this park and venue precisely because it was far from residential properties, and from other park users. The parking lot was convenient to launch from, but we launched far from other cars, and our flight path was out over unoccupied park land. We want to operate safely and responsibly, and just have some fun snapping some nice pics of the beautiful landscape that surrounds the Bay Area.

Oh, and by the way, what I have isn’t a drone. It’s a model aircraft, in particular, a quadcopter. It is an unmanned aircraft only in the sense that your RC car is a remotely operated motor vehicle. It weighs 2.2 pounds. Call it a toy. Do not call it a drone.

7 thoughts on “On quadcopters…”

  1. Check out section 409.3. I’m guessing the correct avenue would be to file for a permit or clarification of the rules, since section 409 does permit RC craft in “certain areas or set aside time.”

  2. If you can get down to the south bay there’s a place at Rancho San Antonio park where people fly rc aircraft of all sorts. The parking lot at 37.331560, -122.084644 is where they all hang out.

  3. It’s illegal because they said it was. It’s for your own protection. Now shut up and return to your domicile, citizen. Thank you for your cooperation.

    I’d like to claim there’s no more fascist place in America than the Bay Area, except nearly every other major metropolitan area in the US is overrun with these officious petty tyrants. And I don’t mean cops, I mean bureaucrats of every stripe, in every department. It’s always easier and safer to say “no.” And there’s a certain personality type that enjoys that, and which is drawn to “public service” or into local politics.

  4. 409.3 Operate self-propelled (motor driven) model air-plane, boats, automobiles, or other
    model craft of any kind or description;

  5. Opps meant to also say check out the AMA – Academy of Model Aeronautics. They are in my opinion the best hope for rc aircraft people to keep our right to fly.

  6. I understand that ordinance if we were talking about gas planes. You can bet they were when the rule was written. But this is just a rule. I’d drop em’ an email and ask for an area to fly electric models. Gas planes have some real bad things like fire, noise and impact that could kill a person. It’s not a wonder those are illegal.

    I think I’d just drop em’ an email. There is likely someone paid to address your concerns.

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