Stay out of Trouble Flying Drone at the Beach

Capturing dreamy scenes of ocean waves that meet the sand — If you are located near one, the beach is likely one of your top destinations for flying your drone. I’m sure that you have likely witnessed footage of other pilots doing the same thing, but when it comes to the legality of it all, there is a lot that remains unclear. Many people are not sure if it is, in fact, legal to fly a drone at the beach.

As we know, it is illegal to fly a drone near any type of airport or place where other aircraft will be flying. But the beach is a grey area in terms of whether they welcome drones.

Rules that are in place are normally fairly localized. Since the hobby of flying a drone to capture footage is a fairly new one, pilots in certain areas have taken the task on themselves for writing a set of rules. So, what is allowed and what is not allowed?

The first thing that you should do if you are unsure about a flight path is to check with the Federal Aviation Administration. They have an app that makes it convenient to double check that your location is approved. This will be your most direct answer, but if you cannot find your location on their app, you can utilize one of the following:

Hover — This is an app that was created to illustrate no-fly zones. It also comes with other helpful tools that you can utilize as a pilot.

UAV Forecast — An app that is specifically designed for unmanned aerial vehicles, UAV Forecast can provide you with a list of no-fly zones as well as real-time restrictions. You are also able to check the weather from the app, a very helpful tool as a pilot.

A lot of the time, knowing where you can and cannot fly your drone comes down to common sense. On a crowded beach, visitors are likely going to feel uneasy if a drone is filming close to the populated vicinity. People tan and swim at the beach, and normally privacy is going to be a priority.

If you do decide that you want to film when the beach is crowded, the best thing that you can do is ask others if you have permission to film. Some people will not mind, and this could lead you to capture some amazing footage! You need to realize that there will be people who find the filming a violation of privacy, though.

Of course, you are going to want to be respectful when flying your drone at the beach. Avoid landing and taking off in an area that will kick sand up or cause an inconvenience. Again, this courtesy stems directly from your common sense and manners.

Know your rights, and ensure that you are not doing anything illegal. Unless you can confirm that the Federal Aviation Administration prohibits the flight, you are not doing anything wrong. There will likely be people that are going to try and protest this with you.

Also, keep in mind that each area is probably going to have a different set of unofficial rules attached. Do as much research as you can ahead of time, especially if you will be traveling to the particular beach for the first time. This will assist you in having the most pleasant flight that you can have.

Getting the Most Out of Your Flight

Before you make the journey to the beach, make sure that all of the settings on your drone are correct. It is easier to predetermine these settings than to fumble with them once you get to your desired location. A quick double check when you get to the beach, and then you will be ready to begin your flight.

When you are all set to fly, and you have found the perfect area, there are a couple of things that are more prevalent at the beach that you should be extra aware of. Because you are going to be near the water, you should be on the lookout for birds. There will be a higher chance of colliding with a bird when you are flying low, especially.

Pockets of air can cause problems for beach flights, too. If there are high winds, it could be easier for you to lose control of your drone. Make sure that you are double checking the weather forecasts before you fly.

When you are landing and taking off frequently and can get into your device. Make sure to inspect the body of your drone for sand and other debris. The grains are small enough that they can slowly start to fill your drone.

Remember that waves can become very powerful throughout the day, and they can reach several feet into the air. Don’t fly your drone too low to the surface of the water, because this is only going to increase your chance of a wave taking the device down. Practice makes perfect when it comes to knowing how high to fly your drone safely.

It can be tricky to fly in this type of environment because your depth perception is probably going to be a little bit skewed. Practicing your flight on a simulator can be helpful, in this case. But at the end of the day, actually flying at the beach is something that cannot be replicated with entire accuracy.

Another thing to keep in mind if you are going to be capturing footage is the filter that you have on your lens. While it isn’t necessary to bring a filter, it might help you to get the best lighting possible. The beach is usually going to provide you with mass amounts of direct sunlight, so you will want to do your best to prepare for it.

The bottom line is to keep your eyes open and scanning your surroundings at all times. If you see something that could be dangerous to your drone, land as safely and as soon as you can. It is always better to be safe than sorry when flying at the beach.

It happened.

I had just got back my DJI Inspire 2 from the engineer after I had broken one of its tractor propellers mistakenly while unpacking it. It’s been just a week, and even though I tried not to get excited before it was ready, I couldn’t see anything else holding me back from taking my drone out for a run on the Miami beach. I had taken my time to understand every law that guided flying drones in Miami even before I got the drone.

I was already at the beach at around 6:30 am after which I did some warm-up while waiting for my friend, Duke to show up. He got there at about 15 minutes past 7, dressed in a colorful armless shirt and a beach short.

Are you sure the drone is fine now?”

No, I think it just contracted HIV,” I responded sarcastically.

Scott, Scott… you’ll be needing my help again pretty soon” Duke responded with a sinister smile seeking revenge. “You always do.”

He was right on that, and I always did need his help. After the tractor propeller had broken, he got me the engineer that fixed it up. He’s my best friend.

Starting up the drone was pretty easy, and that was enough to refill my cup of hope. The beach had begun to get crowdy, but that was part of the plan.

Dude relax, I haven’t even changed to my suit yet, talkless of getting the surfboard. You’ll kill the battery before we even get started.”

“Bro, just go get changed!”

Duke was a very good surfer, and I had a DJI inspire 2 drones equipped with a 2-Axis Stabilized FPV Camera, 58 mph Maximum Velocity, and an Advanced Obstacle Sensing ability. The plan was to record him while he tried out some stunts, during which I get actually to try out the features of the drone. It took him about 15 minutes to get ready, during which I had already turned off the drone to conserve battery.

“You are not a cameraman but please do your best. Don’t come too close and don’t go too far. Try to keep your focus on me most of the time.”

I got, I got it. Go do your thing while I do mine” I responded with a proud smirk.

“God is with us,” He said with a smile as he turned and started walking into the sea.

I started the drone immediately, and I took it as far up as it could go, to test out its range. After this, I sent it out to the river. I could see through the camera with the screen on the controller, and it made it easy to follow Duke as he fought against the waves of the river. Duke was doing great, and the drone was doing an even better job.

As I looked around the beach, I was glad today was turning out great. Then I saw the prettiest girl ever. A tall blonde wearing a black shade, and a red bikini. That was her spot, and I had to say hi. I have been working in on my confidence since Jane broke up with me, and here is an opportunity to test it out.

I’lI’use the drone to catch her attention, I said to myself.

I walked towards where she was and hit the back to the home button on the drone. This was supposed to send the drone to my current location, and I’d act like it was due to a malfunction that the drone landed so close to her. I walked gently towards her, trying to pretend like I was just looking around.

As I moved closer to where her umbrella had been dug into the ground, I smiled and said “Hi,” looking away immediately to act like I wasn’t interested in her. I looked up at my drone who refused to come down and continued to hover in the sky. It was malfunctioning.

I repeatedly pushed the send home button, after which I tried to use the analogy on the controller to move it, but still nothing. Suddenly, the drone began to move towards the main road. I chased after the drone, passing through the crowded beach. The drone eventually crash landed on the pedestrian walk beside the road. I got there, and the tractor propeller had broken again.

Young man, is this drone yours?”

As I looked forward and up at who was talking to me, it was a man wearing a shiny black shoe, black pant trouser, and a police uniform…

Yes officer, it malfunctioned and crashed here from the beach” I responded, gulping at every chance I got. It is against the law in Miami for your drone to fly over a crowd of people, I knew but my attempt to impress the beautiful lady caused it, and there was no way I could explain this to anyone apart from Duke who was still surfing.

Now I’m in the police station few blocks away, hoping Duke would be done surfing soon and be smart enough to track me down here and come to bail me out.

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