Drones are banned in all US national parks, for now


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.


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.


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.


Can’t fly over? I thought flyover rights in the US didn’t exist above the reasonable height to which a property owner might develop. A city can’t just say “no planes can fly in our airspace,” right?

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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.


I was hoping that the NPS would just encase the whole valley in amber so that it will remain just how I remember it and want it to be forever.


Maybe not, but the pilot is on the ground in their jurisdiction, so they can ban “operating a UAV.”

gov drones are exempt, right? It’s important.

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The last thing I want is a bunch of yahoos yelling and drinking beer around their campfire leaving food wrappers all over the place… but we don’t ban camping all-together for a few bad apples, we regulate it: http://www.fs.usda.gov/detailfull/fishlake/recreation/?cid=stelprdb5121831

preponderance of UAV operators are behaving like jerks,

I’m not sure how you would even know this… absolutely no one notices the responsible UAV operators, and that’s by design.

My local parks dept has designated remote control areas and banned it everywhere else… this was at least over 20 years ago. Did national parks simply give out permits to fly wherever anyone wanted to?

My interpretation of the National Park Service’s order is basically this:

Aerial drones are currently in their infancy. We are in a period of mass-experimentation for unmanned aerial vehicles of all shapes, sizes, and uses. There are a lot of good uses for drones, as I’m sure any Hollywood director who keeps up on recent technology could attest. It’s also possible to be quite annoying with drones, such as people taping a video camera to a noisy RC helicopter and flying it around places.

The National Park Service’s stance seems to be, “We understand that drones have some uses, but right now they’re fairly experimental. Please do not experiment with unmanned aerial vehicles in our parks.

I imagine if there was a group, such as BBC Natural History Unit, that wanted to use some aerial drones to take footage, the NPS would be happy to give them the go-ahead. But they don’t want to give everybody a blanket go-ahead.

I can understand the National Park Service’s perspective. I don’t necessarily agree with it, but I think I understand it.


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.


OK, so what’s the difference between “unmanned aircraft” (which are banned) and “model aircraft for hobbyist or recreational use” (which may still be permitted)?

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As long as the preponderance of UAV operators are behaving like jerks … banning UAVs is much more effective and easier on everybody.

Completely agreed. And whether its a preponderance of operators or just a few, enough are trotting out their tired “you have no expectation of privacy in a public place” defense that some action was clearly needed.

This came up in another thread, where a few people illustrated the problem by saying they didn’t care if buzzing someone with a drone was rude or not, since its legal and that’s the only thing that matters to them.

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This is exactly the crux of the matter. We can’t just start banning things because they might occasionally be a nuisance.

Ugh. They are awful. The noise they make is obnoxious and it can hinder other people’s ability to get their own nature shots. A couple months ago I was at a beach in California cordoned off for Elephant Seals. The drone camera operator buzzed that camera all over the place – there was no way anyone else could get a picture of the seals without the drone in it. On top of that, it irritated the seals. Terrible experience.

Welcome to the land of the free.

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