New comer and the first question

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Hello, I am a newbie to the drone community and nice to meet you. I have some experience of flying drone in other countries, but it's first time to fly in US, and I am having some questions. Is it required for recreational operators to pass the aeronautical knowledge and safety test in California? 

It is confusing since some sources say it is not required for recreational use, FAA website says under "changes coming in the future" it is required for all drone operators to pass the test, and on the registration certificate, the last category indicates that the test is required for recreational use as well. What is the most up-to-date law about this? It would be a bummer for recreational operators to take $150 test..

I assume to be called "FAA licenced," you have to pass the test for sure?

Planning to fly drone on whale watching boat. The company says if you are FAA licenced, they allow you to fry drones. Does it refer to only those who passed the test I guess?

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You do not need a license for recreational use but you should still make sure you're not flying in restricted/prohibited areas. You will need a FAA Part 107 license if you plan on making money with your drone or get caught and pay a fine. Also if you're flying a drone that's 0.55 lbs and above you should register it with the FAA and 55 lbs is the maximum drone weight limit for a drone to be flown by a license drown pilot. Hope that answers your question...

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I've been serious about drones for about two months. I am no expert on drones. However, I am a California native and an amateur photographer. Here are my opinions about your proposed drone flights in California off a whale boat.

You didn't specify the region of California for your whale watching trip. I don't know much about the areas outside the San Francisco Bay Area. However, let me please draw your attention to three organizations with regulations that might affect you. Check these authorities carefully.

1. The California Coastal Commission

The California Coastal Commission takes the coastline very seriously. VERY SERIOUSLY. There are lots of protected rocks, outcroppings, islands, etc. If you casually look at a flight map of the California coastline, it looks like the whole coast is protected. That's not exactly true. Zoom in and you will see lots and lots and LOTS of tiny protected spots. Beware of those spots.

2. The Golden Gate National Recreational Area

The GGNRA has jurisdiction over many parks and associated areas in the San Francisco Bay Area. Drones are flat out banned in every single inch of GGNRA territory. If it's GGNRA, stay away.

3. The city of San Francisco

I love my city, but I must be honest. There's lots of rules. Lots of those rules involve drones and city parks. I don't have those rules memorized yet, but I know they're out there.

Also, you did not say when your trip will take place. If it is soon, please know that visibility is bad right now because of all the fires and ash and fog. The sky was dark orange two days ago. I literally could not find the sun. It looked like nighttime, but it was the middle of the day. Today, the fog was so thick I couldn't see from one end of the block to the other. I read the TAF for San Francisco. I think it gave up. If I'm understanding it right, it says the ceiling is on the floor. You get 200 feet of vertical visibility and that's as good as it gets. There's no way for a drone to stay the required 500 feet below the clouds when the clouds are literally sitting on the ground.

I'm only mentioning this stuff in case it affects you. I hope your trip is safe and successful and that you see lots of whales!

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