If you are traveling to see some of America’s National Parks with the family this summer, be forewarned: your new flying camera rig is not welcome.
Yosemite National Parks has put the smack down on tourists bringing in remote-controlled quadcopters to capture images of the breathtaking landscape and they want visitors to know drones of “all shapes and sizes” are illegal.
Park officials posted a warning on Yosemite’s Facebook page for inbound tourists; “We’ve seen an increase in visitors using drones within park boundaries over the last few years, so we just wanted to point out that using a drone in Yosemite is prohibited.” The post continues:
“Drones have been witnessed filming climbers ascending climbing routes, filming views above tree-tops, and filming aerial footage of the park. Drones can be extremely noisy, and can impact the natural soundscape. Drones can also impact the wilderness experience for other visitors creating an environment that is not conducive to wilderness travel … Additionally, drones can have negative impacts on wildlife nearby the area of use, especially sensitive nesting peregrine falcons on cliff walls. “
Charles Warren, an environmental lawyer and former EPA regional administrator pointed out drone operators may run into trouble with some of the lesser-known wildlife regulations.
“There are various regulations and statutes, such as the Bald Eagle Protection Act, that may apply to conduct that disturbs protected wildlife species,” Warren said. “Drone operators may inadvertently run afoul of those laws even if they were not written to apply to any specific technology.”
NPS emphasized that use of drones can also interfere with emergency rescue operations and cause confusion and distraction for rescue personnel and other parties involved in the rescue operation.
“We all want to preserve the peaceful enjoyment of our shared national resources. However, it also seems prudent to understand the benefits of technology before banning it outright,” Brendan M. Schulman, Special Counsel at Kramer Levin, one of the first firms to establish a practice specifically aimed at defending unmanned aerial vehicle users.
“Some of the video footage I have seen of the parks taken by drone are stunning, reveal the beauty of these locations from new angles, and could not have been taken any other way. One solution might be a permit system involving restricted hours,” Schulman said.
Dozens of users echoed the NPS warning for drone users, and even included some threats: “I can promise you that if your drone impedes my wilderness experience it will disappear forever…” one user said.
Another Facebook user responded to the NPS warning with a little more sarcasm than support. “Millions of people a year, your buses, loud motor cycles, hundreds of campers daily, all play no effect on the park, but a device that fits in a back pack used for photography are a problem. Get your priorities straight!”
He continued; “The Wilderness in the Valley is gone due to current management policies. Until they prohibit vehicles, commercial ventures, and tour companies, you have no argument. UAV’s used for personal photography are an amazing tool to truly capture Yosemite’s beauty.”
An NPS official said he didn’t “have a response at this time” when asked about drone use in the parks.
The National Park Service claims approximately 280 million visitors will travel to national parks this year, and according to their post, unmanned aerial systems are banned from all of them. But, feel free to check out these videos that were already captured then tell us, do these videos make you more or less inclined to visit?
And this one (try watching with the music on mute, the images are gorgeous):
Follow Elizabeth Kreft (@elizabethakreft) on Twitter.