Public vs. Private Management: Marketing Videos and Hot Dogs

One of the more popular features we have been experimenting with is adding aerial video of campgrounds we operate shot from small drones.  Customers love these and find them a great way to experience the campground before the commit to a visit.  Here is an example:

We have done this for all the campgrounds where we have a long-term lease and substantial leeway in operating the park.  However, we have not yet done any videos for the scores of Forest Service.  Perhaps this is why -- here is what I have to do to film a campground the FS has already contracted us to operate and market:

We ask for at least 2 weeks advance notice in order to prepare a permit and have the documentation reviewed by our aviation staff.  The proposal would need to include how your drone operations would address public safety and impacts to users in the campgrounds (I believe that you have to have people’s permission to film them so how to avoid that).  Also as you stated all activities would stay above your sites – no flights above Wilderness or the creek or adjacent canyons.   Due to listed species in the canyon, drone activity would need to occur after September 1 which is after the spotted owl breeding season.  The drone would need to be operated by a FAA licensed commercial drone operator and we would need documentation of a FAA Part 107 Remote pilots license or COA from the FAA.  In addition, we would need to have the operator coordinate with our aviation manager and provide the below information, with direction to be included in a  permit so they can get the information out to our aviation assets in the area:

All approved areas on the forest are to be used at your own risk while adhering to all FAA rules and regulations for UAS operations. Notification to the Forest Interagency Aviation Officer at least 24 hours prior to operations is required to help de-conflict airspace with fire aircraft and other forest aviation assets. Include in your notification:

  • Date, time and location of flight
  • Names and contact information of pilot(s)
  • Make and model of UAS

Fees are based on crew size, 1-10 people for video is $150/day.

Several years ago, I was at a meeting in Washington with senior leaders in the Department of Agriculture, including from the Forest Service, and from a number of other recreation agencies. (You never thought of the Department of Agriculture as a recreation agency did you?  They may have more total recreation sites (not visitation, but absolute number of locations) than Department of Interior.  Anyway, these senior leaders were talking about being more visitor-focused.  They were talking about sophisticated programs to provide all sorts of innovative visitor services, and after a while I just started laughing.  They asked me why, and I pulled up on my tablet a letter I had just received from a Forest Service District Ranger (the lowest level line officer) who denied my request to make and sell hot dogs at a store next to a busy Florida swimming hole we run.

While we appreciate your attempt to provide additional services to recreationists, this service is not consistent with current services offered in other recreation areas.  As a Forest, we would like to provide recreationists with the bare necessities to ensure that their visit is enjoyable.  The sale of hot dogs and nachos is out of that scope.


  1. The_Big_W:

    The bureaucracy will be perfected when no one is allowed to do anything..... Almost there!!

  2. Gloobnib:

    Hate to break it to you, but the FAA part 107 requirement is required for *any* commercial use of RC vehicles in thei USA. The FAA has been going after RC hobiests who post videos of their own flights over their own property on YouTube. Because they generate tiny payments through YouTube ads (after thousands of views) the FAA ruled them "commercial" and thus subject to the Part 107 rules.

    This is obviously ludicrous, but it is what it is. This has really impacted those of us in the RC hobby who would like to do things like film local festivals(with organizers enthusiastic support), take videos of local bands performing, or even assist law enforcement with search and rescue. All are effectively banned because the FAA riules them commercial enterprises.

    FWIW, FAA part 107 costs about $500 and about 40-60 hours to obtain. That is assuming you self-study. Multiply cost by 10x if you want to take a class.

  3. Conqueror of All Foes Cheese:

    Near as I can tell, "risk management" by government boils down to "never, ever, ever do anything new or different at all unless you have your butt covered a million ways to Sunday, and not even then."

  4. Earl Wertheimer:

    Map and Directions page does not work for me.
    Tried Chrome and Firefox. The thumbnail is there on the main page, but not when you click for that page.

  5. BobLouGlob:

    I am designing a business which could really benefit from aerial photography at certain government recreational sites. Unfortunately, the hoops I would have to jump through are ludicrous and will make it nearly impossible. While I haven't given up yet, I've pushed this idea to the back burner as the rest of the business does not require aerial photography at all.

  6. ErikTheRed:

    Doesn't seem to like Safari on macOS either.

  7. Bistro:

    Have you considered launching ballistic rockets equipped with cameras that can take all the images as the rocket rises, rips through the atmosphere and parachutes softly to the ground? I mean, it's not as if they are remote controlled or anything insane like that. You may not need a license to launch or recover them. :)

  8. Joe:

    What did these senior leaders have to say about the hot dog letter?

  9. frankania:

    Actually, when I was 14 years old, I attached a camera to the tail of a kite, flew it over my house to take an aerial photo. I put rubber-bands to pull the shutter, with a string thru a burning cigarette (as a timer).
    You could do this nowadays with an i-phone and not need the cigarette! Nor the stupid PERMIT!

  10. cc:

    If permits were required for the wagon trains in the 1800s the west coast would still be wilderness.
    The incentives for a gov agency are always to not make waves, not get noticed. They only care about what might go wrong, not what the upside might be.

  11. SamWah:

    Perhaps you should write a letter to Mr. Trump and ask him for permission, and tell him how the bureaucrats are preventing you from advertising US properties in the modern way.

  12. Matthew Slyfield:

    Another thing you can do is invite Google to send a street-view car to drive the campground.

  13. Kim Hall:

    Imagine my surprise when your video showcased a local hidden gem my family recently discovered! Melton Hill is a lovely place. My hubby and I haven't camped there because we live so close, but we do enjoy the shallow beach with our young granddaughters. It's nice to know you run it! I enjoy your blog too, even though I don't always agree with you. My brother and I are real fans!

  14. Peabody:

    At least the ranger was being honest: "we would like to provide recreationists with the bare necessities". Though he should leave out the contradicting: "to ensure that their visit is enjoyable".

    Reminds me of a forest campground near me that is run by the Forest Service. They used Obama Bucks (stimulus funds) to put up a number of information kiosks. The kiosks were built relatively quickly, but 6 years later the kiosks still don't have anything on them.

  15. CorkyBoyd:

    Hire a general aviation fixed wing or helicopter, fly VFR and stay 750 feet above terrain. Have you or your photog take all the photos you want. You might even find a helicopter/photo service nearby. This is one more example of a government agency with too many people and not enough to do.
    We need to drain the swamp.

  16. Mike Powers:

    Blame it on business owners.

    Because if you start letting people fly things that are even *vaguely* commercial--even in the reductio-ad-absurdum sense of "ad revenue from YouTube"--and you don't crack down on it, then all of the *actual* commercial operators are going to start whining about why do THEY have to get regulated, why do THEY have to follow rules, why can't THEY get exceptions.

    You know, sort of like Warren does when he complains about wineries and small farms getting "free labor" from volunteers and interns.