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Where to fly around SF Bay Area

airpreneur

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Hooray, I have my part 107! Now one of the things I want to concentrate on heavily is building a portfolio. Mostly for the niches I think I'll be targeting this would be mapping/3D model/digital twin type work though I would like to have some pretty photos and video in there too.

I've been trying to be pretty strict in policing myself while flying pre-107, and think I was mostly successful, at least as far as FAA regulations go but there are a number of others to keep in mind. So anyhow I'm wondering if people have go-to places in the Bay Area that avoid any possible transgressions, without needing any authorizations. Here are things that I can think of:

  • FAA-wise at most would require an automatic LAANC authorization - this is actually probably the least restrictive thing on the list..
  • Avoids any National Park Service
  • Avoids CA State Parks & Rec land (State Parks, Beaches, Historic Parks, Recreational Areas, Vehicular Recreational Areas, Wilderness, Cultural Preserves, Natural Preserves). Even if allowed in a particular park, you need a permit to film for commercial purposes
  • Avoids CA state highways
  • Avoids any wildlife protected areas
  • Avoids residential areas (don't want to annoy anyone or worse give them cause to lodge a privacy complaint, there's a statute in CA covering that)
  • Avoids city & county parks restrictions (I'm aware of such for San Francisco city parks, Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority, Santa Clara County Parks, Midpeninsula Regional Open Space Preserves, Napa city parks)
  • Avoids National Marine Sanctuaries (e.g. Monterey Bay which is entire coast from just south of Pacifica all the way to Cambria)
  • Avoids CA dept. of Fish & Wildlife lands
  • Avoids anywhere the drone would be difficult/illegal/dangerous to retrieve if it comes down
  • Avoids areas with lots of people (read: potential complainants/witnesses)
  • Avoids anywhere there are any other county/city/town drone bans
  • Avoids anywhere that has been known to be problematic in the past (however legal it may be)

(Yes, technically some of these may be legal to overfly without any special permitting but at least for this early work I want to assume a landing might happen at any point during a flight.)

So that's a long list of gotchas. Recreational flyer forums haven't so far been terribly useful as generally those folks seem pretty unconcerned with following the rules, other than the low hanging fruit of DJI geofencing and B4UFLY. I shudder to think of the list of laws some FPV flights I've seen are breaking flying long distances around the area, over and above of course they're BVLOS, rarely with a VO.

With all that in mind the only places I know of that check all the boxes so far are Cesar Chavez Park next to the Berkeley Marina, and Treasure Island (minding Oracle Park TFRs which carve out a good chunk when there are games on).

Anyway besides the immediate purpose of building up some portfolio material I hope to turn the above list into something of a checklist/tool to determine what authorizations might be needed for a given job.
 

racervt911

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I think you found the only places in the Bay Area that you can fly. Unfortunately, I have nothing to add to that. Good luck!
 

airpreneur

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Good call on the Presidio, hadn't thought of that. Kind of surprised they allow it actually, wonder what the story is behind that. Here's the web page just for reference: Launching, Landing, and Operating Drones in Area B. Note that only "Area B" is allowed, as opposed to "Area A" which is next to the shore. Definitely going to check that out, probably early on a weekday, nice light, presumably few people. Lots of interesting mapping/modeling opportunities, views of the GGB in the background, ... Thanks for the tip!
 

R.Perry

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Take a ride up skyline, take it from Hi 92 across to Hi 17, actually you can take it well beyond 17 but the beauty shots are going to be between 92 and 17. Years ago you could take it from 17 all the way over to the old radar station but they closed that off many years ago.
As for flying in the bay area, start with your sectional chart and that is going to show you the restricted airspace. Remember you have San Francisco airport, San Jose, Reid Hillview, San Carlos, Palo Alto, Hayward, Oakland and Napa airports.
A little food for thought, if you launch outside of a state park, they can't keep you from overflying it, they can only keep you from launching or landing in the park. Also coast highway 1 from SF to Santa Cruz has some great spots where you can fly and get some nice photo ops.
Oh, your list is too long.
Good Luck.
 

racervt911

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Take a ride up skyline, take it from Hi 92 across to Hi 17, actually you can take it well beyond 17 but the beauty shots are going to be between 92 and 17. Years ago you could take it from 17 all the way over to the old radar station but they closed that off many years ago.
As for flying in the bay area, start with your sectional chart and that is going to show you the restricted airspace. Remember you have San Francisco airport, San Jose, Reid Hillview, San Carlos, Palo Alto, Hayward, Oakland and Napa airports.
A little food for thought, if you launch outside of a state park, they can't keep you from overflying it, they can only keep you from launching or landing in the park. Also coast highway 1 from SF to Santa Cruz has some great spots where you can fly and get some nice photo ops.
Oh, your list is too long.
Good Luck.
We’ll I’m glad to see that I was wrong about my previous post! I lived in the Bay Area for almost 30 years (Redwood City/San Carlos area), but moved out of state just before obtaining my Part 107 license a couple of years ago. I remember thinking how many places I wished I could have flown where I used to live until I looked up my old neighborhood on Aloft. Just have to go near the coast away from all of the airports. Thanks for all of the tips. I hope to go back one day and fly out there!
 

airpreneur

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Happened across a post over on the MavicPilots forums that's relevant for East Bay Regional Parks District (EBRPD) lands: California East Bay Regional Parks District Drone Restrictions , ??. The summary is that the poster pushed back, to the extent of complaining to the parks board and they eventually said they'd entertain a proposal. Quoting here as maybe not everyone has a login on that forum:

“After speaking with the AGM, he directed me to request that you submit a formal proposal to the General Manager regarding the intended drone operation. I recommend limiting the proposal to under 5 pages. I’ve listed some bullet points your proposal should cover, but don’t feel limited by it. Please add any information that you think would be helpful! Let me know if you have any questions.

Your group’s objectives in conducting this activity and how that aligns with the Park District’s mission.

Please confirm this is a group of friends conducting drone flights, not a non-profit or for-profit club

Outline your group’s approach to conducting drone flights and how it will be managed:
Purpose of flights

Number of people during a flight (and how many drones will be in use)

Confirm they all have pilot’s licenses and drone registration certificates

Parks (and where in the park) the drone will operate and flight over: you find maps here à EBRPD - Maps

Radius of operations from point of takeoff
Note any hazards such as power lines in the area

Flight dates

Time frame of drone operation

Examples of any signage that you’ll bring in that would notify the public of drone use in process

Describe safety procedures

If the General Manager and Board of Directors determines your group can fly drones, it will likely require either a Special Use Agreement or Special Event permit because recreational drone use is prohibited in Ordinance 38. There is an insurance requirement and I’ve included a screenshot below. There will likely be an associated fee too.”

I was asked to provide proof of insurance up to $1m in liability and $2m in aggregate. At which point I gave up.

So my list so far:
  1. Cesar Chavez Park, Berkeley. To this actually I'll add:
  2. Berkeley Marina (just South of CCP). I believe it's City of Berkeley but not EBRPD. The South part especially is pretty deserted since the restaurant there is defunct.
  3. Treasure Island (exact locations TBD, I haven't flown there yet)
  4. Presidio "Area B" (had time to get in a few quick hops there in what looked like the least objectionable area, the former Nike Missile site which is now basically empty space -- will return and get more of the park when I can)
Again, this is being extra-conservative, both FAA compliant and all the other jurisdictions, avoiding even overflying them, and avoiding places where I might get hassled. If I was asked to do a job in one of these places I'd need to charge zero extra for any of the, let's call them risks, that I've identified. If for example a job required an EBRPD overflight I wouldn't necessarily refuse it but probably that would be some kind of surcharge as there's an additional risk involved. Not sure if anyone prices this way and would be interesting to hear folks' thoughts.
 

R.Perry

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Multivista does a lot of work between San Jose and San Francisco, sometime it takes time to get the authorizations but the FAA seems very workable with commercial operations with specific purposes. I have only had one completely rejected and that was too close to Beal AFB, and I do understand the reason for the rejection, that is a very high security base.
 

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