Scenario One Down!

On Tuesday after breakfast and a swim, we walked back through D’Mall and shopped a little. We had a couple beers at a midget bar called the Hobbit Tavern, then settled in for a pizza at the Red Coconut.

For some reason I decided not to phone home. I’m sure Olivia will understand. 😉

These are the famous Paraw Sail boats. They’re catamarans so you sit in nets and skim over the ocean. That sounds like great fun but I couldn’t convince Eric to do it. So I’ll save that experience for when Olivia comes here.

This was our last full day here, so I was determined to put my drone up at sunset. I had asked at the bar but even the manager (Gerry) didn’t seem to know the law, and couldn’t give me access to the hotel’s roof. He said it was “prohibited” but we thought he meant at the hotel.

You see, I had also scoured the Philippines CPAA website before I left. That’s their equivalent of the FAA in the US. And every indication was that drones are okay here as long as you don’t fly within 100 feet of crowds, more than 400 feet altitude and less than 10 kilometers from an airports. There are signs all over White Beach listing what you can’t do, but there’s not a single sign prohibiting drones.

You know where this is going…

I walked all the way back south to the secluded cove I had scoped out the previous day. I didn’t want to make a nuisance of myself so I waited until all the patrols were out of sight. Then I launched from the sand about five minutes before sunset, knowing that one battery was worth at least 20 minutes of 4K video.

I won’t be able to watch it until I get home, but I’m sure it’s spectacular. Even though the sunset wasn’t as dramatic as last night, I flew over several sail boats at just over 100 feet.

The next thing I know, a local Filipino “sentinel” approached me, took photos and made a call. Within five minutes I was surrounded by four local cops and a tall PNP (Philippine National Police) guard wielding an M-16 machine gun.

“Sir, did you know flying a drone is prohibited on Boracay?”

“No, I wasn’t aware.” I explained that I had researched this before my trip and it all looked okay without the need for a recreational permit. But they weren’t having any of it. The interpreter explained that I was within 8 kilometers of an airport (doubtful) and there was a local ordinance passed in 2017. She produced the law on paper and I wasn’t about to argue.

Usually, if you are in restricted airspace for any reason, your drone’s GPS system will disable flight. But naturally the Philippines wouldn’t be part of a system that advanced. They’re still struggling with clean drinking water.

So yeah, this was pretty much my worst nightmare. Not so much because of the legal ambiguity, but because I’m suddenly trying to land my aircraft amid a swarm of people with guns who keep demanding my ID. But at least I had the fortune of being the dumb American tourist.

Once landed, I apologized profusely and asked, “Is there a fine I can pay you?”

“Yes, they will give you a citation and you will pay ₱2,500 to them,” the interpretor said. “You will then go to the Police Station in the morning and the Mayor will give you a receipt.”

“That’s okay, I don’t need a receipt. And I fly home tomorrow morning anyway,” I said, hoping that’s all it really was. When they wrote down my Oregon driver’s license info and asked for my hotel and room number I started getting nervous. I was concerned this might be an “apprehension” but then she said, “Don’t worry, sir. They will bring your receipt to the hotel for you.” I nodded in agreement but my intention was to remain scarce in the morning.

Fortunately I had the cash on me. They allowed me to stow my gear properly and didn’t confiscate anything. And because the fine amounted to just $47.57 US, I now have a great story to share on the Mavic Pro drone forum — and 20 minutes of awesome video I presume. It’s also possible I caught the swarm of cops on video. In fact if I hadn’t been so frazzled I might have thought to aim my camera at them on landing.

It was a long walk down to that secluded cove so I still can’t believe how quickly they tracked me down. Nor how professional they were in enforcing their local law. I had halfway expected them to shoot Scenario One out of the sky! 😉

Next time I might bring one of these Bionic Bird drones.

Look for a video link here next week, once I have time to edit my life of international crime. 🙂

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