The use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), more commonly referred to as drones, have been banned from use in America’s National Parks. The decision was made after several incidents where privately owned drones crashed or caused disturbances within National Park Service (NPS) boundaries.
Drones are operated without a human pilot onboard. They are controlled by onboard computers or by remote control. Non-military use of drones include surveying crops, filmmaking, search and rescue, inspection of utility lines and pipelines, wildlife surveys, delivering supplies to remote regions and for personal entertainment. Hobbyists have enjoyed flying remote control aircraft of various types for many years, but now that technology has advanced the range, speed and capabilities of the drones regulations are being put in place to control their use.
Accidents involving personal drones have prompted the NPS to seek a ban on their use within national parks. In September 2013 the NPS reported an unmanned aircraft buzzed above Mount Rushmore National Memorial Amphitheater guests disturbing the program. Visitors gathered to view the sunset at Grand Canyon National Park in April 2014 were bothered by a noisy unmanned aircraft flying back and forth before crashing in the canyon. Drones not only annoy park visitors, but park residents such as when Zion National Park volunteers witnessed one disturbing a herd of bighorn sheep, reportedly separating young from their mothers.
The ban has been adopted at all National Parks and the policy memorandum directs park superintendents to draft a written justification for the action, ensure compliance with applicable laws and provide public notice of the action. Depending on the severity of the offense people who use drones in National Parks face possible monetary fines and/or imprisonment.
To read the NPS statement regarding drones in Yosemite National Park visit the Park Service website.