RC / UAV at BRC – So You Want to Fly Your Drone at Burning Man

Dronetastic! (photo via Wired UK)
Dronetastic! (photo via Wired UK)

In response to the growing popularity of remote controlled aircraft, helicopters and multicopters (aka UAV or drones), Burning Man has formed a new team: Remote Control Black Rock City (RCBRC) under the Black Rock City Municipal Airport management, and updated its guidelines for registering, and the terms and conditions for flying RC aircraft in Black Rock City.

Like mutant vehicles, BRC regulates all RC aircraft and requires that they be operated responsibly, and are subject to restricted fly zones and other rules of operation. The goal is to streamline the registration process, have all RC pilots be familiar with flying in the city, and make it safer for all Burning Man participants.

The FAA requires all pilots of RC aircraft flying within 5 miles of an airport to notify that airport of their operations. Virtually all of Black Rock City is within 5 miles of 88NV, Black Rock City Municipal Airport, and completing the on-line registration and on-playa briefing with RCBRC meets this requirement.

Burning Man hosted a Drone Summit in 2013 to bring together RC pilots, who crowd-sourced the first set of community guidelines for flying in BRC. While the aircraft captured some great imagery of the event in 2013, we also encountered problems, including at least four instances where RC multicopters nearly hit participants.

You can read the new policy and register here, but these are the highlights:

  1. Registration on-line is limited to 200 pilots and closes August 15.
  2. RC pilots must receive an on-playa briefing, after which their RC aircraft and transmitters will be tagged and the pilots issued wristbands. Registration and briefings will be at 5 p.m. sharp, Monday through Saturday at the Artery in Center Camp.
  3. RC pilots are financially responsible for any harm or damage caused during the event.
  4. RC equipment can be confiscated for unsafe flying or violation of RCBRC, AMA, and FAA rules.
  5. Confiscated RC equipment will be held until the end of the event or when the participant departs Black Rock City.
  6. In addition to independent flying, registered RC pilots will have the opportunity to come together, share ideas, and fly from a protected RC Landing Zone. This will be set up at different art installations including near the Man. The changing locations will be posted at the Artery and announced on BMIR 94.5FM.

As in 2013, some guidelines remain the same, including:

  1. When possible, use a spotter to control onlookers.
  2. No First Person View (FPV) flying.
  3. Flying limited to a maximum altitude of 400 ft.
  4. Avoid flying over crowds. Maintain at least 25 ft. horizontal separation from people.
  5. Avoid flying near emergency, police and fire personnel.
  6. No flying near the Man beginning Friday night (during pyrotechnic set-up), and during the Temple burn.
  7. Flying is prohibited in Center Camp, along the Esplanade, near the airport, and near the BLM Incident Command area.

Support your love of RC flight and volunteer! You do not need to be a RC pilot to volunteer. To get involved, fill out a Burner Profile and Volunteer Questionnaire on the Burning Man website and specify airport for volunteer team.

For RCBRC scheduling issues, email milehigh@burningman.com.

For more information regarding duties, email firefly@burningman.com.

Review the complete RC aircraft, drone and UAV policy.

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27 Comments on “RC / UAV at BRC – So You Want to Fly Your Drone at Burning Man

  • Dogknee says:

    Sadly, regulation is needed.

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  • Bull Bunny says:

    Regulation, indeed. Lately there have been countless posts online from Trolls With Toys who’s only question was “Where is the best address to video naked chics?” These are basically the same guys who fight for the right to shoot up women’s skirts. Our camp will be hunting drones with super soakers and fishing rods. These drones are a little too expensive to end up as moop.

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  • Your Veenus says:

    As a Native American I am very conscious of the effects of people taking pictures without permission. Culturally if someone does so I will maintain boundaries as I see fit. As a photographer I always ask permission. Ethics need to be maintained. As a woman and career professional I expect not to have my image or video plastered over the internet. I wHow is BMORG going to maintain the integrity of the BurningMan experience for women??? How will they control men who just want to be titillated? How will they keep women from feeling oppressed and exploited?

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  • Ben Zero says:

    Drone operators are spectators, and intrusive ones at that. I’m surprised to see any accommodation at all.

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  • Fluffybunny says:

    @Bull Bunny

    I don’t know why people make such an effort to covertly take pictures of nude women at BM. It’s a lot easier just to wait until the Critical Tits parade. Easy pickings there.

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  • Tammy says:

    @Your Veenus

    Are you joking or already on drugs?

    You don’t have a right to not have your picture taken in public, and that goes for Burning Man too. If you’re worried that your career may be effected if a nude picture of you at Burning Man shows up on the internet – DON’T TAKE YOUR CLOTHES OFF. There is a myth that what happens at Burning Man stays at Burning Man.

    How will BMorg keep women from feeling oppressed and exploited? Can BMorg somehow control your feelings? You obviously have a victimhood mindset and that’s your problem, not BMorg’s.

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  • MagikMan says:

    Tammy, sorry you are only partially correct in your reply to Veenus. Yes, while anyone cn take any picture they want at Burning Man, do remember part of your ticket specifies that BMorg OWNS all rights to any publication of any image/video/audio recordings done there. To sell any pictures from the Playa would require both a MODEL release from every person in each picture AND written permission from BMorg. BMorg has successfully sued sites publishing pics/vids without permission, and individuals have just as much right to sue and with the precedents set by BMorg’s winning, high probability of winning themselves..

    As to Veenus’s feeling women are exploited by their pics being taken, the same is true for men as well! And yes women are just as titillated as men seeing pics of other women. Can BMorg control or have any responsibility for ANYONE’s ‘feelings’… not a chance. Can they do their best to please the most people possible and protect people at the festival… yes.

    As to Veenus’s comment about ‘keeping boundaries as she sees fit’, for many years there have been camps/villages that specify NO CAMERA’s and have enforced that with water guns… and sledge hammers. Just a part of being in Black Rock City.

    People should worry much more over the easy availability of hidden/spy cameras than the obvious one’s of drones and being openly carried. There is little to nothing that can be done o prevent the use of such… unless BMorg resorts to a full strip search of every person and conveyance entering BRC, using anti spy detectors every time!

    As far as Drones are concerned, am more worried about being hit by one being misflown or crashing. I sure don’t want to have to make/pay for an emergency trip to Reno for SOMEONE ELSE’S mistake!

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  • JOJO says:

    @MagikMan

    BM claims ownership of all pictures taken at the event. They can send all the cease and desist letters they want, they don’t own the pictures. There was already a lawsuit filed against BMorg for harassment in trying to get someone to take their pictures off Facebook. The judge ruled that the event is on public land and although BM rents the location, they have no rights over the ticket holder’s property. The ticket itself is not a contract.

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  • Sarge says:

    The link to RCBRC volunteer activities is a locked UltraNet group. I clicked to find out more about volunteering and get a message that says I’m not “a member of this private workspace.” I’d love to find out more – can you look into fixing that and possibly shoot me an email when the information is viewable by the general public? I searched around just in case I could find the info another way but right now it looks like it’s in one spot and that spot’s private.

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  • Sam says:

    >People should worry much more over the easy availability of hidden/spy cameras

    Our camp put hidden cameras in the portapoties as a joke one year. It was hard to angle them just right, and they kept getting messed up after a while. But we got enough footage for our website an the videos sold pretty well. I don’t think we’ll do that again this year, though. The fecal matter damages the cameras.

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  • Bull Bunny says:

    Times change, true. Every human wanders around armed with camera, video, internet, etc. 24/7. At my first Burn, people focused on experiencing the wonders of the event, interacting with others and most of all respecting each other’s freedom in a mature, enlightened way. Cameras of any kind were rare and discouraged. At my job in a TV studio they don’t allow cellphones, cameras, or other recording devices. BMORG should do the same. A COM camp could be set up for use by Burners needing to check on the outside world. If their outside obligations are so great, they should not attend.

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  • warren miler says:

    the form is broken!!

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  • Will Chase says:

    Sorry folks, the link to the Ultranet was put in there erroneously, and we’ve fixed it. Here’s the correct way to learn about volunteering:

    Support your love of RC flight and volunteer! You do not need to be a RC pilot to volunteer. To get involved, fill out a Burner Profile (http://profiles.burningman.com) and Volunteer Questionnaire on the Burning Man website and specify “airport: for volunteer team.

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  • Merlin Olsen says:

    Hmmmmm…I didnt know that the process of flying a RC copter, taking videos and pictures of public spaces from the air and producing some spectacular footage of the event (do a YouTube search) was “spectating”.

    Im so glad we were able to have a self-righteous burner point that out to us!

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  • Snoopy says:

    @Merlin Olsen

    Apparently all the unlicensed drone operators are taking video up women’s skirts and flying them into tent openings to film live sex acts. This type of perverted behavior must end! Some drone operators are even flying inside porta-potties to record people defecating.

    If you see someone (a man) with a remote control device, it’s your duty as a Burner to protect the women and children from this oppressive exploitation. Attack them on the spot, drag them to the ground and call the police immediately.

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  • Ratech says:

    Many of you misinterpret the goals of pilots flying model airplanes. @Your Veenus, @Ben Zero, and @Bull Bunny, I’m talking to you guys. As a pilot of UAVs (or UASs but not “drones”) I can speak for the model aviation community when I say that many of the aircraft you see carrying cameras are not recording video; they are simply transmitting live video back to the operator. Often, your worries about being publicized are unfounded. And for the aircraft which do carry cameras with recording capabilities (such as the Mobius or the GoPro) pilots seek not to stalk and spy, but to portray the event from an angle which may not be accessible to the average photographer. Most people make the aerial videos for the youtube views, so we couldn’t care less about spying on strangers.

    @MagikMan is more on the right track in terms of being worried about getting injured. New technology has significantly lowered the financial barrier to entry for this hobby, so there are many new and under-qualified pilots flying serious and dangerous aircraft where they should not. But that’s a completely separate issue from your fear of being spied on.

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  • Sprok Da Cat says:

    I am a UAV (“drone”) operator and [very] amateur photographer. A couple comments:

    1) I have been to 8 burns, and I have never taken a picture of a naked person at Burning Man. (It’s possible that a naked person got into a long shot, but I haven’t even noticed that.) If I were to photograph someone who is nude, I would absolutely ask the person for their permission.

    I would do the same in any public or private place. It should be obvious to most adults that just because someone is walking around nude in a special environment, it’s probable that they do not want pictures of them doing so put online. These days, such a thing can damage someone’s future employment prospects. Or political career. Put simply, I _do_ follow the maxim that “what happens at Burning Man stays at Burning Man”.

    My observation has been that most people at Burning Man follow a similar code to mine. Anyone who seeks to profit from Burning Man by taking ‘creep shots’, ‘upskirts’ or whatever lascivious type of photograph is (1) explicitly violating a couple of Burning Man’s few rules and (2) absolutely violating some of the 10 principles. I have never seen someone doing this. However, in my short time as a burner I have noticed more people showing up who aren’t aware of the 10 principles or who basically ‘don’t get’ the burner ethos is general. However, those people are still a small minority of those who attend Burning Man.

    2) I think the drone licensing program is a very good idea. In fact, I think it’s probably the right answer for drone use in all public areas within the United States. These things are dangerous and should be treated with the appropriate level of respect and oversight.

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  • Scrounger says:

    I love, love, love the aerial videos produced by these things. They give a really nice perspective on the event. Not worried about privacy issues; this isn’t the government’s drones you (don’t) see at home.

    I didn’t know about the FAA rule but it makes sense; the only thing worse than a bird strike is a drone strike! Sounds like they have no choice but to provide a mechanism to register (i.e. regulate), and are tacking on some crowd-protection rules while they’re at it. Sad to see number of pilots limited, it could turn into another heavy-handed regulation regime like with the mutant vehicles.

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  • Gourmet says:

    As a drone pilot & photographer I think limiting the amount of licenses is a great idea. This is my 4th burn and Ive have taken photos from the ground and have flown my drone in many beautiful locations around the world. Its 1 in 20 people that have a fearful attitude. If you dont have anything to hide then what are you worried about.

    The point the fearful (@Venus,Ben Zero, and @Bull Bunny) seem to forget is we tend to fly above the ground folks (100+ft), that means anyone on the ground are not overly huge, so any exposed skin is very unlikely to be noticed anyway. We are not there to photographer your sorry asses but to get photography that you just cant get on the ground. I will be flying out of harms way and interested in the art from the air. Open your eyes people to the beauty aerial photography provides. Those not able to be on the playa this year will benefit, as well as those that are there that don’t have wings. If you don’t want to be seen, be photographed how about staying at home.

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  • @Scrounger says:

    The DMV is the most corrupt organization on the playa and has been for years. They simply must be regulated themselves. The bribes were fun and all to begin with when it was innocent, but it is no longer innocent. Just ask DPW.

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  • Chip says:

    @Scrounger

    Worse than DPW is the gate crew. DPW sends their reject to gate crew once they’ve fucked up too many times. This is why, folks, you need to ALWAYS keep an eye on gate crew as they’re searching for stowaways. Their MO is to get the driver to open up the back of their rig and then bring them back up to the cap while the crew checks for “stowaways”. What they’re really checking for is for whatever you have that they want – cigarettes and top-shelf booze, namely.

    Never let gate crew check your vehicle unattended. You have been warned.

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  • Ben Salisbury says:

    Let’s look at this LEGALLY:

    1) Registration is NOT Required when you have a camera on the quad. (1st Amendment Protection)

    2) Property owners are requesting a briefing of R/C operators. Ok…

    3) Of course. It’s called Tort Law(Personal Property Damage)

    4) I’ll break this into 3 parts:
    a) RCBRC can ONLY control the take-off and Landing of ANY AIRCRAFT(Manned or Unmanned)
    b) AMA – You onoy need follow these rules IF YOUR AN AMA MEMBER At an AMA Approved R/C Flying Field.
    c) FAA – There are ABSOLUTELY NO UNITED STATES REGULATIONS that apply to R/C Aircraft. Commercial or Non commercial. This is LAUGHABLE!

    5) Personal property seized by a property owner(or agent thereof) should Immediately be returned to the owner so long as the person can provide proof of ownership.

    6) Ok. IF you want to fly as a group… Feel Free to!

    As for the 2013 guidelines, ANYTHING that has to do with the Actual flight of an aircraft is the Exclusive Authority of the FAA. Seeings as there are NO FAA REGULATIONS on R/C Aircraft, this whole section would be thrown out.

    Also, Above this it is stated that the FAA requires all pilots flying R/C aircraft to notify airports within 5 miles. This is FALSE because PL112-95 sec 336 states that Model aircraft are EXEMPT from All FAA Regulations set forth.

    Personally and Professionally, the BRC can ONLY REGULATE what happens on the GROUND. If you are in your own vehicle, you can do what you want. If you are outside the property, you can Take-off, Fly right over the BLM Incident command, then to the Pyro Display Going off, and Directly to the Burning Man.

    Remember As a Propery Owner they can ask you to leave, But a Public Even held out in the open does Allow you the right to stay on open area for the remainder of the event.

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  • g says:

    Ben….

    If you believe most of what you stated above is true, then you need to read the BLM permit stipulations. This is a PRIVATE event. BRC org and BLM have the final say. If you want to risk eviction or losing your expensive toy, go ahead and violate the rules. The permit clearly outlines what is allowed and who is in control inside the closure areas.

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  • Ben Salisbury says:

    g:

    Even Private Events, can NOT set themselves above Federal Regulation. As I stated above, there IS legal Precedence that you can throw out just about ALL of the above because it is NOT LEGALLY ENFORCEABLE.

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  • Mutant Vehicle Owners of America says:

    Wonder Camp will be issuing permits for drone hunting. Bag limit is open. Happy hunting

    Downed drones will be on display at the “Playa Pony Stampede” Wednesday 5 pm. 4:30 & Jade.

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  • Meeeee! says:

    Drones are like laser pointers, only fun for those douches who use them. Please make them go away.

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  • g says:

    Ben…

    Good luck with that attitude. BLM and the event will get their way. Think it won’t happen? Don’t forget, BLM is a federal agency as well. I’ve worked with them for over a decade out here. Their word is final, and enforceable. Even if a court of law doesn’t see fit to uphold it, that’s months or years after they take action here.

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