The Big Sur area is unincorporated and in uncontrolled airspace, but it is NOT a free fly zone for UAS/drones. Besides the normal laws against flying/filming on private property, Big Sur has several Federal and State agencies, that regulate drone flights in the area.
- NOAA – NO FLYING OVER THE OCEAN ANYWHERE near Big Sur
- California Department of Fish and Wildlife: NO FLYING WEST OF HWY1 SOUTH OF CARMEL RIVER INLET TO CAMBRIA IN SLO COUNTY, WITHOUT A SPECIAL USE PERMIT
- National Forest Service – NO FLYING in Silver Peak or Ventana Wilderness Area
- U.S. Army – Fort Hunter-Liggett LOW Military Operations Area (MOA)
- California State Parks – Prohibits Drones at McWay Falls, Point Lobos, and over any person, campground or over the Ocean (Via NOAA overlap)
- Monterey County – Monterey Film Commission Drone filming guidelines and permits
- Big Sur Visitors Guide & The Local Community – Unless you have explicit permission from a private, business, or government agency landowner to fly a drone over their property, you may be cited for trespass and other infractions.
- AirMap.io : Offers a free account and mapping to show where drones are prohibited by FAA jurisdiction. www.airmap.io Since Big Sur has very little cell signal, look before you travel! THE MAPPING OF NOAA OVERWATER FLIGHT RESTRICTIONS ON AIRMAP.IO IS VERY INACCURATE PLEASE USE THE NOAA MAP AND THIS ONE SIMPLE RULE NO FLYING OVER THE OCEAN ANYWHERE near Big Sur
NOAA restriction map showing Big Sur’s entire coastline as restricted below 1000 ft.
Larger Map Link – https://nmsmontereybay.blob.core.windows.net/montereybay-prod/media/materials/maps/overflight1_full.jpg
California Fish and Game Code 10501.5 – Refuges and Other Protected Areas(opens in new tab)
(a) It is unlawful to fly any aircraft, including any airplane or helicopter, less than 3,000 feet above water or land over the Sespe Condor Sanctuary, and less than 1,000 feet above water or land over the Año Nuevo State Reserve, the Farallon Islands Game Refuge, the Point Lobos State Reserve, the California Sea Otter Game Refuge, and Anacapa, San Miguel, Santa Barbara, and San Nicolas Islands, except for rescue operations, in case of any emergency, or for scientific or filmmaking purposes under a permit issued by the department after a review of potential biological impacts.
Plain language summary: You may not operate a drone on or over these protected properties without a Letter of Authorization from the area manager.
California State Parks drone regulations – https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=29229
National Forest Service – https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd493612.pdf
Monterey County Film Commission UAS / Drone Page : https://filmmonterey.org/use-drones-monterey-county-filming/
THE BIG SUR COMMUNITY SAYS THIS ABOUT DRONES. IT IS THE COMMUNITIES OVERALL OPINION, FROM THEIR POINT OF VIEW. BIGSURDRONE.COM RECOMMENDS COMPLIANCE WITH LOCAL WISHES. . . . . .
“Suggestions for flying drones in Big Sur:
- Obtain written permission from a private, business, or government agency landowner to fly a drone over their property
- Do not fly your drone over a fence or any other indicator of a property line
- If you crash your drone on private property, leave it there unless you have permission from the landowner to retrieve it
- Leave your drone at home“
“Drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), are discouraged in Big Sur. Unless you have explicit permission from a private, business, or government agency landowner to fly a drone over their property, you may be cited for trespass and other infractions.
The regulatory environment concerning drones in Big Sur is complex and changing rapidly. Numerous regulations from local, state and federal agencies apply to flying drones in Big Sur.
First Responder agencies, including law enforcement and fire, use drones to assist in search and rescue, fires, and hazardous materials spills. Visitors with drones, particularly those who are unfamiliar with the geography, may interfere with emergency operations.
Drone trespass across private property in Big Sur is endemic. Invasion of privacy – drones taking still and video footage of residents on their property – is increasing as drones become ubiquitous and simple to operate.
Suggestions for flying drones in Big Sur:COPY AND PASTE FROM http://www.bigsurvisitorguide.com/drones
Obtain written permission from a private, business, or government agency landowner to fly a drone over their property
Do not fly your drone over a fence or any other indicator of a property line
If you crash your drone on private property, leave it there unless you have permission from the landowner to retrieve it
Leave your drone at home
Please respect the privacy of Big Sur residents in the same manner that you’d like us to respect your privacy.”
Resource Links for UAS/Drone Operators
- NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) : https://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/flight/mbnms.html
- CSP (California State Parks) : https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=29229
- NIFC (National Interagency Fire Center) https://www.nifc.gov/drones/
- BLM (Bureau of Land Management) : https://sites.google.com/a/firenet.gov/blm-uas/program
- FAA : https://www.faa.gov/uas/
- NPS (National Park Service) : https://www.nps.gov/subjects/aviation/stories-unmanned-aircraft.htm
- USFS (U.S. Forest Service): https://www.fs.fed.us/managing-land/fire/aviation/uas
- IFCA (International Fire Chief’s Association) : https://www.iafc.org/topics-and-tools/communications-technology/uas-toolkit
- DOI ( U.S. Department of the Interior ) : https://www.doi.gov/aviation/uas
- CalTrans : https://dot.ca.gov/programs/aeronautics/unmanned-aircraft-systems
We Answer Questions and Take Action on Complaints, about flying drones in the Big Sur area: