US moves to ban drones in national parks

2014-06-22 08:35
A team led by Nebraska university scientists has won a federal grant to further develop aerial drones that could hover over and sample water from lakes, ponds and streams that people can't easily reach. (Nati Harnik, AP)

A team led by Nebraska university scientists has won a federal grant to further develop aerial drones that could hover over and sample water from lakes, ponds and streams that people can't easily reach. (Nati Harnik, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington - The National Park Service is taking steps to ban drones from 34 million hectares of public lands and waterways, saying the unmanned aircraft annoy visitors, harass wildlife and threaten safety.

Jonathan Jarvis, the park service's director, said he doesn't want drones flushing birds from their nests, hovering over rock climbers as they cling to the sides of cliffs or buzzing across the face of Mount Rushmore.

Jarvis said he would sign a policy memorandum on Friday directing superintendents of the service's 401 parks to write rules prohibiting the launching, landing or operation of unmanned aircraft in their parks.

Two large national parks, Grand Canyon in Arizona and Zion in Utah, have already changed their rules to ban drones. Some other parks have interpreted existing regulations to permit them to ban drone flights, but Jarvis said each park must change its "compendium" - a set of regulations unique to that park - if a ban is to be enforceable.

At Yosemite National Park in California, where officials announced last month they would adopt a policy prohibiting drone flights, hobbyists have been using unmanned aircraft to film the park's famous waterfalls and capture close-up shots of climbers on its granite cliffs. Zion officials were spurred to take action after an incident in which an unmanned aircraft was seen harassing bighorn sheep and causing youngsters to become separated from their herd.

At Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, park rangers last September confiscated an unmanned aircraft after it flew above 1 500 visitors seated in an amphitheater and then over the heads of four US presidents carved into the mountain.

Some drone operators have complained that a ban favors some park users over others. They also say many unmanned aircraft flights are made without incident and with respect for other park users and wildlife.

Unmanned aircraft range from no bigger than a hummingbird to the size of an airliner, and their capabilities are improving rapidly. Use is growing as their price tags decline. The park service wants to get out in front of that by putting in rules place now, Jarvis said.

The memorandum directs superintendents to continue to allow model aircraft hobbyists and clubs that already have approval to operate in some parks to continue to do so. Also, parks can continue to grant permits for drone flights for other purposes like research, search and rescue, and fire fighting, he said. Commercial operators like moviemakers can also apply for a permit to operate a drone, he said.

While parks are changing their individual rules, the park service will be drafting its own rule to ban drone flights in parks nationwide, he said. Jarvis said he hopes to have a proposal ready in about 18 months.

The ban only affects what Jarvis described as "operations inside parks", and not high altitude flights over parks.
Read more on:    us

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.