Yosemite National Park Bans Drones ‘of All Shapes and Sizes’
A statement on the National Park Services’ website claims that drone use in parks violates Code of Federal Regulations clause Thirty Six CFR 2.17(a)(3), which prohibits “delivering or retrieving a person or object by parachute, helicopter, or other airborne means, except in emergencies involving public safety or serious property loss, or pursuant to the terms and conditions of a permit.”
This applies to drones of all shapes and sizes, according to the release, but it remains unclear how it will enforce the policy; the law does not mention drones or unmanned aircraft of any kind.
The Federal Aviation Administration, which is set to release nationwide drone regulations in September 2015, has not issued any laws governing drone use by hobbyists (or anyone else, for that matter), so the park’s stance seems shaky at best.
The statement on the NPS website continued:
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. The use of drones also interferes with emergency rescue operations and can cause confusion and distraction for rescue personnel and other parties involved in the rescue operation. Additionally, drones can have negative impacts on wildlife nearby the area of use, especially sensitive nesting peregrine falcons on cliff walls.
The National Park Service, which runs Yosemite National Park, has also legally adopted the FAA’s aircraft regulations. Since the FAA hasn’t enacted any laws regarding drone use (as a hobby or for commercial gain), it’s unclear why Yosemite officials believe the clause they cited relates to drones.
Yosemite National Park officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The debate over the legality of drone use in America has heated up over the past year as the FAA has tried to fine several unmanned aircraft users. Officials at the agency issued a $10,000 fine to Raphael Pirker for using a 4.5-pound aircraft back in 2011 to film parts of the University of Virginia campus. Pirker made money from the film, which the agency frowns upon, but a judge dismissed the case in March. The FAA also dealt a $2,000 fine to New Yorker David Zablidowsky last September after he crashed his aircraft into a Manhattan building. Google and Facebook have also invested in drones, meaning the debate over drone use in America is likely to continue for years to come.
BONUS: Drones Versus Government: Who Owns America’s Skies?