Drones Not to be Allowed in U.S. National Parks

The National Park Service has issued a ban that will surely dampen the spirits of drone enthusiasts and users around the country all the more: drones, or unmanned aircraft, are not to be allowed in U.S. National Parks.

Calling unmanned drones a dangerous harassment, the National Park Service is moving to ban them from 84 million acres of public lands and waterways across the country. A policy memorandum signed Friday instructs the National Park Service’s 401 park superintendents to prohibit the launching, landing or operation of unmanned aircraft in their park. Read more at:

The rationale behind this policy is all about noise and safety concerns.

It all comes down to noise and safety, said Director Jonathan Jarvis in a statement announcing the policy. “We have serious concerns about the negative impact that flying unmanned aircraft is having in parks, so we are prohibiting their use until we can determine the most appropriate policy,” Jarvis said.  See more here:

However, this policy is deemed sweeping and causing confusion, according to a Forbes article by Greg McNeal, an excerpt of which reads: “…the National Park Service wrote:

Another reason for the required closures is that current NPS regulations do not specifically address launching, landing, or operating unmanned aircraft.  The prohibition on operating or using aircraft in 36 CFR 2.17(a)(1) does not apply to unmanned aircraft because the definition of “aircraft” in 36 C.F.R. 1.4 is limited to devices used or intended to be used for human flight.

But what about current model aircraft operations in parks?  This is where things become a bit more confusing. The Park Service creates a carve out for the “limited existing use of model aircraft” but that still doesn’t address every circumstance. Read more of the article here:

Some say the policy is too sweeping, for while they understand that the use of a drone or or model airplane to harass or harm animals would no doubt be covered under existing regulations, it is hard to imagine that use of drones for photography or similar purposes would be so destructive that it demands preemptive prohibition.

For some, they think it is the growing popularity of drones, unmanned aircraft or model airplanes, used by hobbyists or for taking aerial photography – because they are without doubt getting much cheaper, more hi-tech – that is causing National Park Service to be wary.

Brendan Schulman, a New York attorney who has challenged the FAA on its drone policies, said the park service’s legal interpretation is still shaky. “Model aircraft have been used in national parks for decades,” he said. “This is not a new use. All that’s changed is the popularity.”  Read more here:

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