One of California’s largest national parks is putting a stop to drone use within its 1,169-square-mile boundaries.
The National Park Service issued a statement on May 2 reminding the public that UAVs are prohibited under federal regulations within Yosemite National Park.
The statement emphasizes that:
“Delivering or retrieving a person or object by parachute, helicopter, or other airborne means, except in emergencies involving public safety or serious property loss, or pursuant to the terms and conditions of a permit’ is illegal. This applies to drones of all shapes and sizes.”
So far the NPS has not issued a similar statement to cover all national parks, however, several incidents demonstrate that the issue will likely crop up as part of the overall regulatory policy battle over domestic drones.
In late April, volunteers at Zion National Park say they saw a drone harass a herd of bighorn sheep, forcing the animals to flee.
Although the Yosemite statement did not mention what fines or sentences violators may face, Zion Park Superintendent Jim Milestone told the Associated Press that “violators could be subject to up to six months in prison and a $5,000 fine.”
In some cases, drone operators operating in national parks have suffered confiscation of parts of their UAVs. Well-known drone videographer (and policy challenger) Raphael Pirker came into conflict with the NPS in 2011 while drone filming at the Grand Canyon National Park, Pirker was intercepted by park rangers, who according to blogger Jason Koebler’s recent post:
“…demanded he ground the drone and that he delete any footage he took. Pirker turned over his drone’s memory card, but only after rangers threatened to obtain a search warrant to seize it, according to a citation report. Pirker was fined $325 and issued a ticket.”
Yosemite officials claim drones can upset wildlife, particularly high-nesting peregrine falcons. The NPS also claims drones can detract from visitor experience:
“Drones can be extremely noisy, and can impact the natural soundscape. Drones can also impact the wilderness experience for other visitors creating an environment that is not conducive to wilderness travel.”
But drone use is not necessarily detrimental to all wildlife. In Kenya, park wildlife officials plan to launch drones across its 52 national parks to stop wildlife poaching.
In a media statement, the Kenya Wildlife Service said:
“Use of drones has shown that we can prevent poaching and arrest many poachers on their tracks. The pilot project has been a success, and we are working with many partners, including the Kenya police, the National Intelligence Service and a lot of international partners such as Interpol, Ugandan and Tanzanian governments.”
The decisions by Yosemite and Zion officials are not new rules but an emphasis on already-existing rules.
Nevertheless, several UAV videographers have produced amazing video footage such as a recently released fly-over video from Daniel Boone National Park. Such footage could be used to attract more visitors rather than drive them away.
Jason is a longstanding contributor to DroneLife with an avid interest in all things tech. He focuses on anti-drone technologies and the public safety sector; police, fire, and search and rescue.
Beginning his career as a journalist in 1996, Jason has since written and edited thousands of engaging news articles, blog posts, press releases and online content.
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