Lessons Learned

Had an epiphany? Stepped in a metaphorical cow pie? Share the experience here.

Kite + Camera = Unmanned Aerial System in California

It happened again.

Remember this one?


I got to re-live that experience all over again!

I was flying my trusty Levitation Light 9' Delta with full R/C rig attached in the evening around sundown at the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse State Park in beautiful Mendocino, California, when once again I was contacted by Officer Pelican of the California State Parks Police. She rolled up on me with the red and blue lights on her patrol vehicle flashing to inform me that what I was doing was illegal.

She was armed with more than guns and handcuffs this time, she brought The Law with her - or with what she thought was the law. She read to me, from her phone, the executive order which bans "...Model Aircraft, UAS [unmanned aerial systems] and gliders in flight" in the Sonoma-Mendocino Coast District, which begs the natural question; "So, which one's a kite?" It's the unmanned aerial system, of course.

My next question was "If the system is unmanned, how were you able to find the person manning it so quickly? I know, good solid police work!" for which she had no real answer.


She is the same officer who contacted me in the "Kite + Camera = DRONE in California" thread, exactly five years before to the day (I'm nothing if not consistent). She had to have remembered me from before, because how many people have seen anybody KAPing? We had a lively discussion that time, and we had another one this time.

Of course, I had done my homework too since our previous meeting. I had researched state parks rules and regulations, and asked all the lighthouse docents I could find if kite flying was still OK, and found zero prohibitions.

As it turns our, drones ARE legal in California State Parks, absent an order from the District Superintendent. The District Superintendent had issued such an order for the Sonoma Mendocino Coast District. You can read it for yourself here:


That's the executive order she was reading from her phone to me (she was nice enough to text it to me) She only read from paragraph 1. The preface, which I couldn't read until I returned to civilization and cell reception, says "UAS are an emergent technology...". This KAP business has been a thing for well over a century. Maybe it's taking longer to emerge than we thought!

After about fifteen minutes of a good back and forth discussion (at least I thought it was good, anyway), she stated that she would not be issuing me a citation and just walked away. I couldn't just let it go, though. I smelled blood in the water at that point, and was enjoying our little talk, so I followed her back to her truck while still asking questions. She finally turned her back on me and began talking to one of the lighthouse docents about what nice weather it was. Of course I was still snapping photos with the rig airborne the whole time.

Maybe my argument persuaded her? I don't know, but if so, this would mark the first time I ever talked my way out of a ticket. It normally works the other way around. There's not a cop in the world who would catch the same person doing the same thing she had advised them not to do without at least issuing them a citation.

I remembered to snap some photos of her this time, and took Jim's advice to keep smiling, which wasn't difficult because I was trying not to laugh the entire time.

Things always have a way of working out. I went home with the shot I was after; Sunset over the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse.


The photos of Officer Pelican and me are the cherry on the cake!


  • I remember the story.
    There is an incredible amount of bad press of US police ignorance on social media. It's worrying. For the self-proclaimed 'auditors' it is a sport and some are making millions from wrongful treatment.
    Glad you got the photos.

  • Great story of perseverance under pressure. Glad you got the photos you were hoping for.

    I am amazed at the number of time people have come up to me and asked about the drone I had up in the sky.... even with no KAP rig attached to the line...

    Changing times.

    But.... as the number of locations exponentially grows where you can not fly drones.... KAP may continue to squeezy between the cracks to keep great photos (and videos) coming.

    I am planning to be in Olympia National Park in the coming week....hoping to get both KAP and drone flights in ..... fingers crossed!

    Keep the stories coming Chaz!


  • You did well to stick to your guns and hold your ground. There are a number of people in positions of power who misinterpret the law or rules that govern private property that is accessed by the public.

    Wind Watcher: "I am amazed at the number of time people have come up to me and asked about the drone I had up in the sky.... even with no KAP rig attached to the line..."

    I can kind of relate to this. Some time ago, I was flying my 9ft Levitation Delta (with no camera rig) and a woman was admiring the kite and asking me questions about it. During our conversation, I mentioned to her that it's possible to attach camera to it. She replied: "Attach a drone?" I then repeated: "Attach a camera." Once again, she asked me: "Attach a drone?" Yet again, I said: "Attach a camera." We went back and forth a number of times saying exactly the same things to each other until finally, she got it and said: "Oh a camera."

    Why on earth would you attach a drone to a kite??

  • Chaz - That is a nice selfie you got with her ;)
    I can see on the photo that you were not wearing any safety gloves, so she should have issued a ticket for trespassing the No.1 safety rule of kite fliers :D

    (just kidding)


    {Yes, that was SARCASM. SORRY you had to put up with all that AGAIN, Chaz. NO shade intended to anyone who now lives in California.}

  • Good to hear from you about your KAP exploits Chaz.
    Keep up the good work...KAP photos... Cracking sunset photo at the lighthouse.
    Fly High
    Sue KAPiCA 2016 (gosh - that's ages ago now)
    Fuerteventura South lighthouse made from volcanic rock
    Selfie of me and my friend Ken

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