3D Robotics

Drones now banned in all US National Parks


From Gizmodo:

The National Parks Service just announced a sweeping ban on drones. The new policy prohibits "launching, landing, or operating unmanned aircraft on lands and waters administered by the National Park Service." Why? Because they're disruptive, that's why.

Drones are already banned in a few national parks, including Yosemite, for the simple fact that they're a noisy nuisance. These flying robots bother park-goers. They bother park rangers. And perhaps most importantly, they bother the wildlife. The Parks Service release even lists infractions:

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. 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.

Disturbing the sheep!

Not all hope is lost for hobbyists who want a beautiful backdrop for their aerial drone-o-graphs, though. The Parks Service itself will also continue using drones "for administrative purposes such as search and rescue, fire operations and scientific study." The new policy is described as a "temporary measure" pending a more permanent regulation which "can take considerable time" to get approved.

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  • I totally agree with the ban. I have been flying quad/hexa/roto only on AMA flying sites (It's just a hobby, I love building it, testing it, upgrading it, and taking photos of the areas surrounding the sites... for me that is enough).

    Even in my local AMA field, I have seen the last couple of months an explosion of guys flying Phantoms or FPVing so ruthless and careless that is annoying (even seen how it get close to accidents). In the Valley Flyers field in Los Angeles we share the field with a beautiful jogging area, and you can see the ruthless guys following the joggers and doing stupid things. Can't imagine what is happening right now in national parks...

    I would love to see a license for flying in national parks. Something like 200 dollars for a year (With an exam and so on) and you need to report to the park management to fly it. That would help to make sure that people that fly in public places have some kind of judgement on not bothering people or wildlife.

  • In a sane world, the NPS would have banned unmuffled motorcycles first.

  • @Rob

    Public comment somehow doesn't hold the same relevance as voted out of office. ha But I get your point. At least there appears to be some input taken from us. 

    Yes some places would make more sense than others. Maybe we should assume most people will get that rather than penalize the entire group. 

  • @ Richard  My point is that the opportunity is there to provide input into park rules/regulations as well as long-term and short-term planning documents.


    Also, usually every year parks update the Superintendent's Compendium.  This is a compilation of park specific rules.  To be enforceable they must go through a public comment period (usually 30 days I think) which is always announced in a press release. One does have to be watching for the press release though.

    We can agree to disagree perhaps, but I don't think using model aircraft/drones/personal uavs/etc is appropriate for many areas in OUR national parks.  There are some areas and circumstances where it is probably okay though.  I think Phillip summarized some of the reason why very well.

  • Can't have little flying camera's taking snap shots of sleeping park rangers now can we? 

  • @Rob  The problem is we are losing our republic [ not a democracy fyi big difference ] to unelected officials. Laws are suppose to be enacted by congress so that we can keep those that write the laws in check. Notice that when the EPA or other agency makes these decisions they are called 'rules'. They do this for a reason. They can't write laws and they know this. So no problem.... they just call them rules. Even the top sheriff in the county has to get elected!! Not these people. It is way way overdue to riegn these agencies in. We the people own this country and these parks. And no I'm not an anarchist or anything. But seriously they even thumb their noses at congress. It's really out of control. Look no further than this ridiculous 'rule' that says we can't go into OUR parks and do a simply thing like fly a small craft. 

  • Mike, If you look a little deeper into the details, IMHO there is actually an opportunity here to participate in democracy.

  • TOTAL BS! But since America has become a communist state it is believable.

  • I know we're all excited about UAVs and about this technology. But we have to realize that most people visit the national parks to enjoy the tranquility and splendor of nature. They don't want to see or hear drones flying overhead. And who can blame them? 

    IMO, this decision was inevitable. Drones have become common toys and are now being sold by the thousands. As a result, it's likely that drones will be considered nuisances more and more as time goes forward. The hobby's future is being threatened by its own success. With thousands now flying drones, its inevitable that we'll see bad actors (unfortunately). These bad actors can easily spoil the public perception of drones and result in more restrictions. 

    Unlike many of us UAV enthusiasts, who've been involved with this hobby for many years, there are thousands of kids and others that are just now getting involved. Flying drones used to be a fairly sophisticated hobby, requiring some special technical skills. But now it has become too easy for anyone to buy a fully functional drone and just fly it. 

  • As a UAV and FPV hobbyist but also a strong advocate for National Parks and wilderness, I see this move by the NPS as being done with good reason.  They cite only a few egregious incidents but if you look around YouTube you can find many more examples of folks harrassing wildlife (changing their behavior with the drone) and inconsiderate flying around people, both inside and outside National Parks.  I would argue that the emerging drone user group has brought this on themselves.  

    That said, there may be a place for responsible use in some areas.  That is really up to the community to show there can be responsible use.  Lars points out above that parks will decide how to regulate.  When the NPS or the Superintendent of a park wants to create a new regulation it has to go through the public comment process...so if you choose to stay tuned in, each of us can have a say.

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