Drone Restrictions Part 2: 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 are still part of other national, state, or local restrictions or bans.
Read Drone Restrictions Part 1: Cape Cod National Seashore here before reading this blog post.
In 1871, William H. Jackson transported heavy photographic equipment to the Yellowstone area of Wyoming on horseback. He did not need a permit. In fact, no one even knew or cared about the area he was taking pictures of. He photographed the Yellowstone area and presented his photos of the unique landscape to the United States Congress. Before Jackson presented his photos, no member of Congress had seen Yellowstone and they had zero clue what the area looked like. Jackson's photos revealed the almost alien landscape with amazing geysers that exploded boiling water up into the air. Jackson's photos made such an impression on Congress that they made Yellowstone the first National Park. Hooray!
Fast forward to early April, 2018. I contacted the Cape Cod National Seashore to inquire if there was a legal path I could take to get a permit to fly one of my drones on Great Island (class G airspace) on Cape Cod to take some photographs. I had already read online that flying drones in National Parks and National Seashore lands is banned. Someone from the Cape Cod National Seashore contacted me and informed me that there is a channel for proceeding and moving forward to attempt to get a permit to fly a drone within the Cape Cod National Seashore for commercial purposes. I was told to write up a proposal and submit it for review. I did just that. I carefully explained who I am, how I have a background in the arts and photography, that I have FAA SUAS certification, and that I am very familiar with Cape Cod and I have been going there every summer for more than 45 years. I also explained that I just wanted to take some pictures of the beautiful landscape.
I proposed simple up and down flights. Nothing fancy. Just enough to get some nice photos or video footage of the area. I gave the approximate latitude and longitude of where I'd be launching and landing. I proposed that I'd only fly on clear days with little to no cloud cover. I included the closest airport phone numbers. I wrote that I'd check NOTAMS. I wrote more...
Here is just a portion of what I proposed:
• I will only launch and land the UAS/drone on the Great Island beaches. I will have a small packable nylon circular landing pad to keep sand off of my drone.
• I will not launch near any wildlife, i.e., seals, nesting birds, etc., and I will carefully inspect any possible launch locations for wildlife before considering it.
• Before each launch, I will check the Cape Cod National Seashore website for alerts about any public warnings or closings in the area.
• Only one drone will be flown at a time, and only by me.
• I will not fly over any people, structures, boats or vehicles.
• I will only launch and land my drone on the beach.
• I will only fly my drone over sandy beach land, or over Cape Cod bay waters.
• I will not fly over any marshlands or wooded areas.
• I will have a first aid kit with me in case of emergencies.
I sent this in a MS Word file and and email text to the Superintendent of the Cape Cod National Seashore on April 10th, 2018. Today I received a reply—41 days later—with an apparent form letter informing me that: "Director's Policy Memorandum 14-05 and the Superintendent's Compendium March 2018 prohibit launching, landing, or operating an unmanned aircraft from or on lands and waters administered by the National Park Service within the boundaries of Cape Cod National Seashore except as authorized by the Superintendent."
The letter then went on to say, "If you would like to pursue a permit to use a UAS for scientific data collection, the requirements and process for requesting permission to use a UAS for data collection are outlined below."
What followed was a bulleted and sub-bulleted list that would only apply to someone knee deep in scientific research. A grad student perhaps. Or maybe a scientist. Maybe someone dedicating his or her life to checking for CO2 levels in the atmosphere, or someone looking for evidence of shoreline changes due to climate change. This scientist would need to submit a briefing statement to the Chief of Natural Resource Management and Science. He or she would need to state the purpose of the mission or project with designated locations, UAS platform, pilot, certifications such as FAA and COA along with dates and times.
Much of what was being asked for I had already supplied. But my "mission" to simply fly my DJI Phantom 4+ drone and take pretty pictures of the landscape, like William H. Jackson had done in 1871, fell far short of any actual scientific purpose. I would not even attempt to write up some fake nonsense proposal beyond what I had already presented. If the artsy altruistic nature of just wanting to take pictures for the sake of the images themselves and their beauty alone was not enough, then screw it.
If you go online you can easily find aerial footage and images of various locations of Cape Cod National Seashore taken by drone/SUAS. Check out Google and Flickr. Video and still images are floating around. Who are all these people? Are they all FAA certified? Did they all get permission from the Cape Cod National Seashore and meet their requirement for scientific data collection? I wonder.
I just wanted some pretty pictures. Fly up. Take Pictures. Spin the drone some. Take a few more pictures. Maybe fly a little higher and take a few more. Then land. Hike back to my car. Edit the images in Lightroom. Post images on Instagram and get a few likes. Make zero money from all my efforts. End of story.
Luckily for me where I'll be staying on Cape Cod is in Class G airspace and outside the National Seashore boundaries.
Cape Cod National Seashore Oversand Beach Driving
I just want to remind everyone reading this that you can easily obtain a permit to ride a fossil fuel-consuming automobile on the Cape Cod National Seashore. They call it: Cape Cod National Seashore Oversand Beach Driving. According to the website. "The ORV corridor at Cape Cod National Seashore is comprised of miles of unspoiled beaches managed by the National Park Service to accommodate ORV enthusiasts and other beach goers."
How exactly they can write with a straight face that the beaches are unspoiled when they allow cars to drive on them is a mystery to me. They "accommodate ORV enthusiasts and other beach goers" and grant them permission to drive on the beaches. How lucky for these ORV enthusiasts.
Remember you don't need to be conducting scientific research to drive an automobile on these beaches. You just need an easily obtainable permit.
You can apply for the permit here: ORV Permits
Here is the ORV Facebook Page.
Good luck getting a scientific data collection drone/SUAS permit.