Drone Restrictions Part 1: Cape Cod National Seashore
Written By Adam Furgang
This will be an ongoing post regarding different locations I'd like to fly my drone/UAS, such as the Cape Cod National Seashore, Catskill State Park, Adirondack State Park, and various other scenic or interesting locations that are not necessarily within FAA restricted airspace but still have other national, state, or local restrictions or bans.
*** UPDATE BELOW***
Now that I am a licensed FAA Part 107 Commercial Drone Pilot there are some places I'd very much like to visit with my drone/UAS so I can take some pretty pictures. It's still quite cold out (despite being early April) so I've been using my time wisely and doing online research and making phone calls to attempt to get permission and/or information about various locations I'd like to go take aerial pictures or video. The more I dig the less likely it seems that I will be able to fly a drone/UAS at some of the locations I was hopeful to visit in the coming months. Below is the first location I investigated.
• Cape Cod National Seashore
Flying a drone on Cape Cod national Seashore land, even for commercial purposes, seems like a long long shot. I'd hoped to go to Great Island on Cape Cod in July or August and hike the Island with one of my drones to take some aerial photos of this gorgeous location. Great Island, despite the name, is a land connected peninsula located in Cape Cod bay. I've hiked there many times since I was a kid in the 70s. Typically the location is almost completely free of people. To get there one has to drive to the park center and then hike many miles to get to the outer isolated locations. The tip of Great Island has an amazing location called Jeremy Point. Only seasoned hikers who packed well will find themselves there. To get there you'd need food, water, good hiking shoes, and grit.
Flying a drone/UAS on Cape Cod National Seashore seems likely impossible. According to the Cape Cod National Seashore website drone/UAV use is banned. The information page about drones/UAS states: "unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), are banned from launching, landing or operating from lands and waters administered by the National Park Service within the boundaries of Cape Cod National Seashore." The page is confusingly titled: "Restrictions of Unmanned Aircraft Systems." The words restrictions and banned are very different so I can see how someone could be a tad confused and maybe think they might be able to fly under certain circumstances. Maybe I'm splitting hairs but when one could face: "—six months in jail and a $5000 fine," I think wording is very important.
More broadly according to the National Park Service website: "Policy Memorandum 14-05, released by the National Park Service (NPS) director in June 2014, directed each superintendent to use the authority under 36 CFR 1.5 to prohibit the launching, landing, or operation of unmanned aircraft, subject to the certain conditions and exceptions set forth in the memo. This is still in force with a very few exceptions."
I'm hopeful about the very few exceptions part, but realistically I'd be shocked if I was issued a permit to fly and take aerial pictures on any location of the Cape Cod National Seashore. There are non National Seashore areas of Cape Cod so I'll still be able to take some aerial pictures.
Oddly, too, if anyone wants, you can apply for a permit to go OVERSAND BEACH DRIVING and "bring 4-wheel drive and/or self-contained vehicle (SCV)" on certain Cape Cod National Seashore beaches. The Cape Cod National Seashore page that talks about drone/UASs being banned states, "Public use of UAS is not compatible based upon the purpose of the park's establishment, which seeks the protection of scenic values and impacts from noise, as well as potential conflicts with wildlife and visitors. Unauthorized UAS usage can quickly and easily intrude on a visitor's enjoyment of the park." I'm a bit confused here, because a ground based "4-wheel drive and/or self-contained vehicle" that obviously disturbs the land, wildlife, generates noise, and fumes, can be permitted...but an electric drone that creates no fumes and generates little noise except upon landing and takeoff that is operated by a licensed FAA Part 107 Commercial Drone Pilot is banned. I'm betting these statements will be updated soon.
I think the outright blanket drone/UAS ban policies are knee-jerk reactions that have not been well thought out. I also think the lack of any easily accessible permits (like the oversand beach permits) for licensed FAA Part 107 Commercial Drone Pilots is frustrating.
I think restrictions are fine.
I think rules are fine.
I think obtuse confusing and/or contradictory drone bans, especially for people such as myself who went through all the proper channels to operate legally and responsibly is also frustrating.
Drone permits issued to licensed pilots who know the rules will help the drone industry as a whole. Blanket bans will only be broken by those who don't care and have no UAS training or understanding, and when these individuals cause accidents it will ultimately be a detriment to the industry as a whole, as well as the general populations attitude regarding drones/UAS.
Thanks for reading. —AF
I'm still digging and sending out emails and making calls. If I do get a permit to operate a drone/UAS on the Cape Cod National Seashore I'll come back here and update my findings.
Less than a week after reaching out to the Cape Cod National Seashore I received a phone call from them explaining that there is a channel to to proceed and move forward to attempt get a permit to fly a drone within the Cape Cod National Seashore for commercial purposes. There is no guarantee I will get a permit, but I have been provided with information I can use to move toward obtaining one. I'm happy. Again, I'll return here with updates once the process plays out. —AF