Drones can be cool, but often are not
At a state park last week, we saw a man climb over a wood railing, right where it was signed “Closed, in repair.” He then slid down an eroded bank into a ravine to a streambed — and then operated a drone, rigged with a micro video camera, up and down a canyon. Dozens who watched didn’t seem to know whether to cheer or place him under citizen’s arrest.
In a private airplane, flying the last leg of a flight from Fremont to the Palo Alto Airport, I had a close call with a drone at 1,000 feet, my assigned altitude, over the KGO transmitter at the eastern foot of the Dumbarton Bridge.
Yet, there has been good to go with the bad.
Last year, in a privately owned area of the Suisun Marsh, with nobody around, we too used a drone to film kayaking in the tule-lined sloughs and ponds to get helicopter-like footage without the cost or the wind shear.
It seems everybody has a story, often bad, about encounters with drones. From the Bay Area and around the world, drones with cameras are having a profound effect on the outdoor experience.
Drones rigged with a micro cams are best used to get aerial video of your home or property. They can provide sensational footage on the water, such as looking down at the silhouette of a giant blue whale spouting at the surface.
Yancey Forrest-Knowles, on left, ventured to Sitka, Alaska for a chance of what is not typically available in California, such as this 70-pound lingcod Hope of greatness leads to surge in adventure travel AP10ThingsToSee – In this picture made with a long exposure, waves move on the shore as the sun sets at Natural Bridges State Beach on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Santa Cruz, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File) From forest to sea, much to do in Santa Cruz County Jeremy Keyston after completing 30-mile section of the Hat Creek Rim while en route on the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail Work of trail angels is heavenly for Pacific Crest hikers The North Yuba River runs 25 miles along Highway 49 in the north Sierra Nevada, including a gorgeous section from Sierra City to Downieville and the foothills of the Sierra. Sunday Getaway on the North Fork Yuba River
Problem is, some drone pilots can’t resist the temptation to intrude on the privacy of others. An FAA inspector told me it is trying to find the operator of a drone who has been flying over homes with swimming pools to spy on people in their backyards.
Drones are illegal in virtually all parks, state beaches, refuges and wildlife areas, of course; if you see one, report the location to a ranger. There are many other rules: Most must be registered with the FAA. Operators are not permitted to fly them more than 400 feet above the ground or near an airport or flyway, a stadium or public area with people, or beyond the line of sight.
Used correctly, drones have the ability to provide a unique perspective on the world.
Used wrongly and your privacy — and the sanctity of parks, wilderness or wildlife preserves — can be violated.