At least to a certain law enforcement ranger at Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park it does.
I was KAPing at sunset at Point Cabrillo earlier this week, a place I have KAPed nine times in the past, when at about the end of my session a Park Ranger paid me a visit to advise me that drones are illegal in California State Parks. The law enforcement ranger, with a pair of handcuffs and a Glock on her hip, and an AR-15 mounted in the shotgun rack of her truck.
No big deal, I thought. I don't own any drones.
But she insisted that any aerial photography is a "drone" to her, and she's The Law in those parts.
I was finished snapping photos and I was in the process of winding everything up when I noticed a Park Ranger driving down the dirt road upon which I was flying my 9' Levitation Light with full R/C rig attached. About that time, she activated the blue flashing lights on her truck, which is never a good sign.
I showed her my rig, which she photographed from several angles, including angles which captured both the rig and kite in the same frame, as it hung right in front of her face, while I explained its use and how it's not a drone. She was having none of my explanation. She told me again that drones are outlawed in California State Parks, and that I had to stop what I was doing immediately, or risk being issued a citation.
"Citation for WHAT?" I asked. Illegal drone, she replied.
"This isn't a drone. I don't have any drones." That went nowhere.
I asked if it's legal to fly a kite in her State Park. She replied in the affirmative. I asked if it's OK to take photos in her State Park. That too is legal, she said.
"Then how come I can't do two legal things at the same time, without the police telling me to stop?" I asked. Because "drones are illegal" was her response.
I asked if she had a copy of the text of the law she was trying to enforce with her. She answered by asking me if I was a lawyer. That's another bad sign. I think the police ask if you're a lawyer when they realize that the tool they brought with them isn't the right one for the job they want to do.
(I've been asked by the police if I was a lawyer so many times in the past that my standard answer is "Are you?" We then establish that neither of us are lawyers, and we get back to discussing whatever it was we were talking about before the cop changed the subject.)
I didn't give her the standard answer, because I was still trying to be nice, even though my frustration level was climbing. I replied that I was interested to read the law because I wanted to be in 100% compliance with all rules and regulations. She took my phone number, and promised me she would look up the law, and get back to me on how the law prohibited KAP. She never called. I never expected her to call.
I was flying almost 700 feet away from the scenic and historic Point Cabrillo Lighthouse, and over a hundred yards downwind from any other building or public access road, so this wasn't one of those times when my camera was within a few yards of a lighthouse. Didn't matter to her. She's highly trained, and she knows a drone when she sees one. And she saw one suspended from my kite line!
As she left, she told me "I won't be citing you right now", but that I needed to quit immediately. I was finished anyway, whether she was there to congratulate me on another successful KAP outing or there to take me to jail. I told her so much, and also told her I intended to start up again the next morning at first light.
Later that evening, as I was attempting to get shots of the lighthouse using a normal tripod, the lighthouse docent - Laura - paid me a visit. As we were talking, she mentioned how she had to call the Ranger to deal with "some yahoo flying a kite" earlier. That yahoo was me (I've been called worse) I said.
Turns out, a visitor had seen me KAPing, and had also seen at least one of the dozens of "NO DRONE ZONE" signs plastered all over everything at Point Cabrillo, and told Laura about a drone flying. Laura took a look out the front door of the lighthouse, and because she had no idea of KAP, and kite string is a tough thing to spot from 200m, she assumed "drone" and called in the cops.
That was my fault, for failure to communicate ahead of time.
The next morning - I was staying overnight at one of the rental units on the lighthouse grounds - Steve, the HMFIC of Point Cabrillo Lighthouse paid me a visit to tell me that everything I was doing was OK. I wasn't out of line at all. Steve and I had met several times over the years, and he was hip to what we do. Steve even knows Cris B., so KAP is nothing new to him. "For crying out loud, we SELL kites at the gift shop inside the lighthouse" he said.
Before I took off the following morning, I left both Steve and Laura a couple sacks of California avocados, to kind of let them know I'm not sore with either one of them. And I also left them a few of my cards, with a link to my Flickr page. Lighthouse Laura follows me on Flickr now!
Lesson learned? Communication is key. BEFORE I launched a kite, I should have said something to the docent at the lighthouse about what I was doing. I should never assume just because I've been KAPing somewhere for a decade that anybody else there knows what I'm up to.
The Ranger? She's a lost cause. If she didn't grasp the concept when illustrated for her, she never will. She wrote in her report that she observed a "drone tied to a kite". If she wants avocados, she has to buy them herself. I've been contacted by all kinds of police / security types while KAPing - local cops, county sheriffs, port security, rangers, Border Patrol, etc - at least a dozen times in the past. And every one of them gave me the green light once they saw what I was doing. This one was different.
My biggest regret is that I wasn't snapping pics of her while she was photographing my rig. Next time, I'll try to remember.
That's OK. I got the shot I wanted:https://www.flickr.com/photos/30901290@N03/28934721978/in/dateposted-public/