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National Park Service bans drones (for now)

Posting in Aerospace

Visitors to the 59 U.S. national parks can hike, camp and even fish. Flying drones, however, is officially on the no-no list--at least for now.

The U.S. National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis signed a policy memorandum Friday that orders superintendents of the parks to prohibit the landing, launching or operating of drones, beginning Aug. 20. The policy measure is temporary. The next step will be to propose a regulation regarding unmanned aircraft, Jarvis said in a statement.

The National Park Service cited noise and safety as the primary reasons for the blanket prohibition and shared several instances of drones causing problems. One drone, for example, disrupted a group that had gathered to watch a sunset in Grand Canyon and ended up crashing into the canyon.

While the use of drones has long been viewed as a military tool, the technology is being increasingly used by photographers and filmmakers to capture aerial footage. Some researchers have used drones to count wildlife; they've also been used to track poachers in Kenya. In Yosemite National Park, drones were often used to film rock climbers, until their use was banned in May 2014.

Curiously, the order doesn't appear to cover hobbyists flying model aircraft or park officials from using drones for search and rescue, fire operations and scientific study.

Related:

Thumbnail: Flickr user Don McCullough


— By on June 20, 2014, 5:16 PM PST

Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure