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Information to Include for UAS or Drone Permits Within NOAA Regulated Overflight Zone

Section 922.132 Prohibited or otherwise regulated activities include:

  1. Taking any marine mammal, sea turtle, or bird within or above the Sanctuary, except as authorized by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, as amended, (MMPA), 16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq., Endangered Species Act, as amended, (ESA), 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq., Migratory Bird Treaty Act, as amended, (MBTA), 16 U.S.C. 703 et seq., or any regulation, as amended, promulgated under the MMPA, ESA, or MBTA.
  2. Disturbing marine mammals or seabirds by flying motorized aircraft, except as necessary for valid law enforcement purposes, at less than 1,000 feet above any of the four zones within the Sanctuary described in Appendix B to this subpart. Failure to maintain a minimum altitude of 1,000 feet above ground level above any such zone is presumed to disturb marine mammals or seabirds.


MBNMS can process a permit for use of an Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). For further information, see MBNMS’s Aircraft, Model Aircraft & Drones web page.

When applying for a permit to conduct UAS operations within MBNMS, please address the following questions within your permit application:

  • What type of survey craft will you be using? (e.g., fixed wing, vertical take-off and landing) and its payload components (i.e., what is the UAS carrying?) Please provide spec sheets and images of the UAS.
  • Type of survey or sampling method (e.g., line/strip transects, photogrammetry, whale breath sampling)
  • Will you be hovering? If so, include the time spent over each group/animal/location.
  • Minimum altitude that you would like to fly and what is the db at that altitude?
  • What are the Dates/times/events when you plan to fly?
  • Will the UAS ever be beyond the line of sight of the operator (pilot)?
  • Describe the launching stations (boat or land).
  • What are your retrieval strategies should the UAS go in the water?
  • Will you be the pilot? If not, please provide the pilot's name as the UAS pilot needs to sign the permit.
  • What is the battery life of UAS?
  • How will you avoid disturbing marine mammals or birds?
  • What are the concurrent activities?
  • Do you have the appropriate FAA, USFWS, NMFS, USFS, California State Lands Commission, California Film Commission and/or California Department of Fish & Wildlife permits/authorizations for proposed UAS activities? Please provide a copy of those permits or list which permits you will be/are applying for.
URL:    Reviewed: March 22, 2019
Web Site Owner: National Ocean Service

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