Drones are banned in all US national parks, for now

Yosemite National Park. (Reuters)

Yosemite National Park. (Reuters)

The National Park Service has announced it is banning the use of drones (also known as UAVs, or unmanned aircraft aerial vehicles) in all national parks. Agency director Jonathan Jarvis said in a statement Friday the decision arose from “serious concerns about the negative impact that flying unmanned aircraft is having in parks.” More at the Washington Post:

Jarvis said that the new rules are only temporary and will prohibit drone use until the agency can figure out a policy to serve the parks as well as the visitors. Of course, the Park Service notes that the process of figuring out drone-related regulations could “take considerable time.” Any permits already issued for unmanned aircraft have been suspended and need to be reviewed and approved again.

While the rules are in effect, drones cannot be launched from, landed in or flown over the land or water overseen by the agency, which manages 84 million acres of land and 4.5 million acres of oceans, lakes and reservoirs.

The agency might still use drones from time to time for specific uses: scientific studies, search and rescue operations, wildfires, and the like.

Read the directive here, at the National Park Service website.

Notable Replies

  1. I can see why people might want to use a quad copter with a go-pro to get some really good videos.

    Maybe the parks could created their own videos of fly-bys and sell them on USB sticks at the gift store.

  2. Seems way too heavy-handed. Then again, I've got friends who shoot absolutely gorgeous rock-climbing videos with their hex-copter.

    The release lists three incidents:

    Last September, an unmanned aircraft flew above evening visitors seated in the Mount Rushmore National Memorial Amphitheater. Park rangers concerned for visitors’ safety confiscated the unmanned aircraft.

    This sounds like it would be best served with a ban on flying over people who haven't given permission.

    In April, visitors at Grand Canyon National Park gathered for a quiet sunset, which was interrupted by a loud unmanned aircraft flying back and forth and eventually crashing in the canyon.

    This should be covered by the above "flying over other people" rule, or creating a disturbance is already illegal.

    Later in the month, volunteers at Zion National Park witnessed an unmanned aircraft disturb a herd of bighorn sheep, reportedly separating adults from young animals.

    I'm pretty sure messing with the animals is already against park regulations.

  3. As long as the preponderance of UAV operators are behaving like jerks, and as long as no clear utility is lost by banning them, banning UAVs is much more effective and easier on everybody. All of your scenarios require way too much nuance in the interpretation of the words "flying over" of "messing with". Just banning the aircraft is unambiguous.

  4. I'm in a national park...The last thing I want is buzzing cameras over head.

    Do you really want a sky full of swarming drones hovering around national parks like Alford Hitchcock's The Birds, while you're trying to enjoy nature.

  5. JonS says:

    Oh, they're noticed. But campers/trampers are generally reasonable folk who'd rather wear the mild erosion of their enjoyment than create a scene and really erode their previously enjoyable trip.

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