Friday, December 16, 2016

RECORD COLUMN: "Fly your drone on the beach? Not so fast"

Posted December 16, 2016 12:02 am
By LORRAINE THOMPSON Anastasia Island Community Columnist
LORRAINE THOMPSON: Fly your drone on the beach? Not so fast

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The beach is the perfect place to fly a drone, right?

Guess again. If you plan to give a drone (Unmanned Aircraft System) or if you are one of thousands who will receive a drone as a holiday gift, the St. Augustine Police Department has posted information on its webpage regarding federal registration of certain drones.


• Anyone who owns a drone (a small unmanned aircraft of a certain weight) must register with the Federal Aviation Administration’s Unmanned Aircraft System registry before it can be flown outdoors.

• The owner must be a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident and 13 years of age or older. (If the owner is less than 13 years of age, a person 13 years of age or older must register the small unmanned aircraft.)

• Owners must register their UAS online if it meets the following guidelines: Weighs more than 0.55 pounds and less than 55 pounds. Unmanned Aircraft weighing more than 55 pounds cannot use this registration process and must register using the Aircraft Registry process.

• Owners must register their UAS by paper if it meets the following guidelines: The aircraft is used for commercial purposes, is used for other than hobby and recreation, or the aircraft is greater than 55 pounds.

In addition, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a summary of small unmanned aircraft rules in June 2016. Some of the basics include:

• The drone must remain close enough to the remote pilot in command and fly a maximum altitude of 400 feet.

• Drones may not operate over any persons not directly participating in the operation, not under a covered structure, and not inside a covered stationary vehicle.

• Daylight-only operations (30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset local time).

Some beach areas including the City of St. Augustine Beach prohibit the use of drones on its beaches except with special event permits.

For more information, visit the St. Augustine Beach Police Department website at and the Federal Aviation Administration website at

Calling all early risers! Celebrate the Winter Solstice at Washington Gardens State Park starting at 6:45 a.m. on Wednesday. Learn about rituals and traditions from the days when people feared that the fading daylight would never return unless humans kept watch and celebrated the seasonal change. Weather-permitting, participants will view the light come up on the first day of the solar New Year.

Park ranger Joe Woodbury will share his unique knowledge of the myths and legends centered on the winter solstice and tell how to track the movement of the sun throughout the year.

Hot coffee will be provided. The event will take place in the park at the Intercoastal Waterway. Meet in the garden parking lot. Entrance fee is $5 per vehicle. The park is located at 6400 North Oceanshore Blvd. off A1A South in Palm Coast. Call 386-446-6783 for more information.

Ideas for local holiday gifts

• If you’re a frequent visitor to Anastasia State Park, consider joining the Friends of Anastasia State Park for $25 per year. Your membership entitles you or the recipient to 12 park entrances. Memberships are available for gift giving.

Entrance to the park is at 1340-A State Road A1A south, just east of the Alligator Farm. Without the membership, admission fees are $8 for vehicles with 2 to 8 people. For information on the membership, go to

For those who travel throughout the state, an annual membership is also available that covers entrance to most Florida State Parks, starting at $60. For details, visit

• Annual St. Johns County Beach Passes for 2017 are now on sale at the discounted rate of $30 for county residents, $40 for non-residents and $20 for handicapped persons. They are available at tax collector offices as well as at the pier gift shop and Beach Services at 901 Pope Road.

A valid ID with a St. Johns County address or present proof of property tax payments in St. Johns County is required. In order to drive on the beach, passes or daily admission will be required starting March 2. For more information about annual passes, call the St. Johns County Beach Services Office at 209-0331. Visit the Reach the Beach Mobile App, for current beach access updates and beach driving conditions.

Holiday happenings

• A live nativity will be presented by children and choirs of St. Anastasia Catholic Church at 3 p.m. on Dec. 18. Local author and actor Andy Nance will narrate the enactment of the birth of Jesus. The stable scene will be complete with live animals including a petting zoo for children. Hot chocolate and cookies will be served, and Santa Claus will be on hand to receive letters destined for the North Pole. Santa will also be available for photo ops. St. Anastasia Catholic Church is located at 5205 A1A South on Anastasia Island. Admission and parking are free. Everyone is welcome. Call 471-5364 or visit the webpage for more information.

• New Year’s Eve Beach Blast Off returns from 5 to 10 p.m. on Dec. 31 at St. Augustine Beach Pier Park, and will feature 30 food vendors plus champagne, beer and wine stands, family fun with a kids zone, face painting, carnival rides, mechanical bull, photo booth and rock climbing. Local radio station 105.5 will be broadcasting live. Entertainment will include special live performances by Papercutt, Old Enough 2 Know Better, and Cassidy Diana. The fireworks display synchronized to music begins at 8:30 p.m. Free parking with free shuttles to the pier will be available from Anastasia Baptist Church, St. Augustine Amphitheatre, Amici Shopping Center, Reunion Bank, R.B. Hunt Elementary School, St. Augustine Beach City Hall Parking Lot, Harbour Island Executive Center (312 bridge) and Anastasia State Park.

At this writing, it is not known if the beach area from A Street to Ocean Trace Road will be accessible to vehicles as it has on past New Year’s Eves. Still recovering from the damages caused by Hurricane Matthew, that stretch of beach is under evaluation and recovery efforts in order to comply with Habitat Conservation and U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service requirements. Motorists, however, may enter from Ocean Trace Road and drive and park south of that point on the beach. The estimated New Year’s Eve high tide time is 9:33 p.m. And, an official reminder — by law, the use of fireworks is prohibited on the beaches at all times except by special permit as in the case of the annual New Year’s fireworks display.

Have news to share about Anastasia Island or the adjoining areas? Send your information about people and events to, or call 471-4851.

1 Comment

Tom Reynolds
This is very interesting and I am very surprised to read this info. I agree that drones should not be on a crowed beach and regulated. However I do question the City of St Augustine Beach and the City of St Augustine Police Department Authority in Regulating something this important.

1) I was unaware that the City of St Augustine Beach owns any beach or is the authority of any part of the beach. I was always under the impression the Beach in this area is call St Augustine Beach and is entirely run by St Johns County Government.
2) The St Augustine Beach Police Department has an inaccurate web site. The City is a little less then 1.9 square miles and its website says 3.0 miles. So based on that I would question anything else on their website.
3) The Chief of Police, Robert Hardwick, is only a part time Chief, is the highest paid in the state, (way over a $100,000.00 w/Benefits) and has another job with good pay/benefits/retirement. The assistant Chief, James Parker, (also over paid, $100,000.00 w/Benefits) admitted in Court Records that he does not understand the First Amendment of the Constitution. So how could they be any kind of law authority when it comes to the important job of regulating Drones ? They both should be under the One Bullet in the Top Pocket Rule like Barney Fife was.
4) The City of St Augustine Beach, Mayor Richard O"Brien recently admitted in Court that he doesn't understand the First Amendment of the Constitution, although he has taken an Oath three times to defend it. He recently filed a SLAPP (Strategic Law Suit Against Public Participation) that was malice and thrown out. So how could he be voting/passing ordinances to regulate drones.
5) The City of St Augustine Beach Commission can't follow their own rules at City Meetings. The Commissioners should try leading by example before making any regulations/rules for anything, especially something very important like drones. The City Manger Max Royle, Public Works Director Joe Howell, and Building Official Gary Larson are all unqualified for their positions and or are completely clueless when it comes to simple City Operations and Regulations. The City Management couldn't even follow their own Regulations, County Regulations, State Law, and Federal Laws/Regulations when it comes to pumping storm water.

The City of St Augustine Beach should not be in the regulating of anything business when they are proven incompetents. Without a spec of doubt they are dangerous and need serious oversight by higher authorities. This Drone Flying is very important and dangerous. It does need to be regulated by smart people !

Thank you for this story and info,
Tom Reynolds

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