YouTube user Brian Needle recently posted a video that showcased some beautiful footage of Great Falls Virginia shot with a drone. His flight was cut short, however, when a National Parks Service helicopter allegedly tried to knock it out of the sky. The video description on YouTube reads:
While flying the Phantom 2 over Great Falls a Police helicopter attacked it and tried to blow it into the rocks/river. After I was able to fly it back in my direction to try to land, the helicopter came after it again but came to0 close to everyone watching and turned away. I was detained by the police for an hour and interrogated. I was given a $70 fine.
Watch the drama unfold: (Skip to the 3:40 mark to see the helicopter.)
In early May the National Parks Service issued a statement that banned the use of drones in Yosemite National Park. The statement said drones can be disruptive to both visitors and wildlife alike, but the legal citation for the statement was Title 36 Chapter 1 Part 2.17 (a)(3) of the Code of Federal Regulations which prohibits “delivering or retrieving a person or object… by airborne means” in a National Park.
Using this clause was like trying to regulate apples with a law established for oranges… or better yet, lemons.
However, on June 20, (two days before Needle shot this video) National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis signed a policy memorandum that prohibited the use of UAVS in all National Parks.
The policy memo directs superintendents to use their existing authority, derived from the CFR, to prohibit the use of unmanned aircraft. That power (supposedly) comes from Part 2.17 of the CFR (Aircraft and Air Delivery). Clause a1 reads, “Operating or using aircraft on lands or waters other than at locations designated pursuant to special regulations is prohibited” and clause d “The use of aircraft shall be in accordance with regulations of the Federal Aviation Administration.”
If that sounds confusing to you, you’re not alone.
According to Needles, the Park Rangers were not too sure of how the system works either.
“The Rangers asked me what I was filming,” Needles told Dronelife. “They asked me if I knew flying it in the park was not allowed, if this was the first time I had done it, basic stuff. They had me turn it on and show them how it worked.” Not that any of that information seemed to make any difference.
“They couldn’t figure out what to do so I had to sit there for about 45 minutes waiting until they could figure it out.”
In the end, they fined Needle $70. “They said that they gave me the lowest penalty out of 3 they could have,” he said, “I forget exactly what the other options were but a mandatory court appearance was part of one of them.”
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com