Drones

Drones never bothered me, until one day they did.  It was in a park where I go to escape from the mechanical noises of the city. It was a beautiful day, as most days are in the parks, when suddenly an incessant buzzing/humming noise interrupted everything pleasant about the park. I looked around, and saw this flying object hovering right over me. It stayed there, then came down practically next to me, and then shot up again. I looked around for anybody who might be controlling the drone, but saw no one at first. As I continued looking, far in the distance I saw someone who looked like he was holding a board which he was manipulating with both hands. I decided to walk in his direction. As I got closer, the flying object zoomed over to him, he packed up and left before I could reach him. I’ve encountered dozens of people who have had similar experiences which they were not happy with.

That was my first drone encounter. I’ve had several such encounters since that one, and I’ve been able to reach the controllers. Most are very courteous  and take their objects out of the sky. Some have not been — they tell me there is no “law” against doing what they are doing, and that they have a “right” to fly. It’s when I found a drone descending on a coyote — which I’ve seen three times now — that I decided to pursue this further.

I went to the internet and found that these objects are banned from national parks, and from any proximity to people. Then I wrote the San Francisco Parks Department, asking them what the rules were for flying drones in city parks in San Francisco. I was told that they had to have a permit, and that permits were not too commonly issued. This was a relief to hear.

So the next time I saw a drone over a coyote (see photos) I approached the controller and told him that it wasn’t appropriate for the wildlife. The droner pulled out an app which he said came with the drone: it showed where droning was not allowed. It did not cover any of the parks in San Francisco. I think the app only lists national parks, because the Presidio was included, but none of the city parks run by RPD had any restrictions. The droner decided he was right, and I was wrong, and I had nothing to prove otherwise.

In the situation depicted in the photos, I hurried into the park, not knowing what was going on except that a coyote was howling. When I arrived, the howls had stopped, but the scene was of a little coyote hovered on a hill with a drone flying above it — the drone was departing as I arrived. There were several onlookers, but they were only concentrating on seeing the coyote howling — wow, pretty exciting, I agree — and they hadn’t noticed if it was the drone that had triggered the howls. I only got there afterwards, so I won’t ever know this. But I do know that if the drone is bothersome to me, both in terms of its noise and as an object hovering over me, I’m pretty sure it would be bothersome, even frightening, to a coyote, whose sense of hearing is so much more acute than mine and who is wary of all intrusions into its personal space, and probably especially by an object it doesn’t understand.

I’m hoping RPD can make these regulations a little more easily available for everyone.