Yosemite National Park Puts A Ban On Drone Usage

yosemite-drone-usage

It seems that the next battle on photography is about drones. Between photographers, videographers, police, FAA and courts, this battle is still wide open.

The last swing is coming from an unexpected participant – the US National Park Service (NPS). In a plainly titled notice – Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (Drones) Prohibited in Yosemite National Park the NPS issued a notification that use of drones is prohibited while visiting the park.

While also addressing the legalities (or lack there) of using drones within the park perimeter, the NPS is also concerned with the safety and enjoyment of both park visitors and the wildlife living in the park

The park has experienced an increase in visitors using drones within park boundaries over the last few years. 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

This is an interesting development as more and more cases of drones either being taken down or discouraged by the authorities.

[Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (Drones) Prohibited in Yosemite National Park via Jim Goldstein, image based on RedTail_Panther's Yosemite National Park]

  • http://twitter.com/mgleixner Martin Gleixner

    Not everything that is technically possible, one must also make

  • Mike

    I have to agree with the authorities here. As the use of drones proliferates and the price drops so the likelihood of adverse outcomes will increase. It may be that they can introduce licensed use covered by insurance and at times and seasons where the social and environmental impact will be minimised.

    • ext237

      Have to +1 this. I’m planning a group trip to national parks with my photog club. Don’t want to do a class on “using photoshop to remove drones from your landscape shots”. Not all of the reasons measure up. But wildlife issues and the wilderness experience? Ya, ground the quads.

  • Heiko

    I agree with Mike. The drones do impact the nature and the experience of nature for other visitors. On the other hand the drones often deliver stunning videos and provide them to people that otherwise don’t have the possibility to visit the national parks. So a regulated license system, like 20/day on a first come-first serve base or one or two drone-days every month might bring the clashing interests together.

    • ext237

      That would require a government program, employees, a system of management, paperwork and an act of congress. LOL

      • Todd Gardiner

        Almost all of which are already easily covered by the same system for getting a camping permit.

  • Atnbirdie

    This isn’t about an incursion on photographers’ rights. It’s about protecting the rights of those of us ( including photographers with hand held cameras) who go to the parks to enjoy nature unfettered by human made toys that intrude on a peaceful environment.

  • J. Philip vanHeijkoop

    I’m actually pretty amazed you can still fly these things without a permit of some kind. And it’s not just safety but also privacy. Imagine doing whatever you want in your own backyard (I don’t nude sunbathe myself, but I can imagine some people do) and a drone pops by and takes a peak. I don’t actually follow what paparazzi do, but this dronething must be a bloody goldmine.

  • Thom

    Great decision, otherwise I would be one of hundreds who would have my drone up there. The park is too crowded as it is

  • Couldn’tAgreeMore

    I am glad to see so many folks agreeing with this decision, our National Parks need to be protected so that the generations to come can still enjoy them. I can see some people chasing the birds and animals all over the place with these drones, perhaps even chasing them off park property only to be killed.

  • Aud1073cH

    Keep in mind this ban against unmanned aircraft systems – traditionally known as unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) would not be limited to quad and other multi-copters, but it would also include other helicopters, radio controlled airplanes and gliders, kites, and baloons. Both radio controlled and free-flight would be un-manned.
    That being said, I’d support the ban in National parks.

    Oh, sorry kid, that balsa wood glider isn’t allowed. That’ll be a fine of $….

  • JSintheStates

    Kill a drone for Jesus!

  • joe_average

    Please stop being overly paranoid; we can all share the parks respectfully.

    First, people and the law should recognize that there’s two very different types of drones: unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and remote pilot vehicle (RPV). UAV are not allowed anywhere per FAA regulation. Non-commercial RPV (aka hobby planes, helicopters, and quad-copters) are a great tool for photos and recreation. Unfortunately, people are naturally paranoid and offended when something is buzzing around the parks and neighborhoods. A total ban is ridiculous, and so is a licensing system (for small, aircraft below 400 ft). Just like other activities (climbing, camping, pets, etc) in national parks, however, there can be a permit system that regulates the number of aircraft, maximum altitudes, locations, and operating hours; for a fee of course!

    • Todd Gardiner

      Yosemite actually bans a lot of activities. Snowmobiles, for instances, are not allowed there. Snowmobiles and off-road vehicles are allowed, regulated, or completely banned, depending on which park we talk about. I don’t see why it should be different for small aircraft.

      • DesertPackrat

        Your observation is valid. However, it most of these instances there is a demonstrable safety hazard or negative impact on the environment. Motorcycles, ATVs and snowmobiles can be dangerous to other park visitors and definitely impact vegetation and animals. And yet I still believe that some land should be allocated for these recreational activities, just restricted and managed. In the case of quadcopters these issues are much less. Quadcopter manufacturers are embedding safety features into the units and the footprint of these units is too small to destroy anything. Noise is a valid concern; however, we are talking about vast park areas where restrictions of use at highly visited areas can resolve this. For animals I suspect the noise is inconsequential. If privacy is a concern, again location restrictions would resolve this. I see a lot of urban myths around quadcopters entering into this debate, but it is the park administrators responsibility to sort fact from fiction and not apply personal bias.
        I am not a quadcopter owner, but as a photographer I believe the pendulum towards restrictions and bans towards photography have become excessive. Georgia just passed a law that guns can be toted anywhere (except the state legislature building where the people who pass laws work). It is easier know to carry a gun than a camera. I have no opinion about guns but I do feel that I deserve the privledge to video record or snapshot the property that my taxes pay for.

  • Rick

    They have banned nothing. The current rules went into effect in 2003 (likely superseding similar ones already in place) and the National Park Service is merely pointing out in the press release that drones were never allowed in the first place.

  • DesertPackrat

    The parks seem very welcome to disturb the nature experience with commercial filming when given the right amount of money and they certainly don’t seem to mind allowing commercial helicopter rides over Grand Canyon (even though they did limit them). I am totally against an outright ban in the parks; I think a permit based system with restrictions of time of day and location is a better approach. There is a slippery slope between this and someone who brings a giant RV with televisions and radios blasting. First and foremost should be safety to animals, other visitors and rescue personnel. It would be smarter for the NPS to find a limited use solution than an outright ban. In Redington Pass near Tucson where I live we are discovering this same issue with gun use. Gun owners need to be respectful not to litter and destroy the land and those opposed need to realize that without a designated space (because it is still legal to use guns on the land) that firearm owners will begin to shoot anywhere causing safety issues and more widespread damage. Like everything in life compromise create the better solution.

  • Fred Fleming

    Many of you are stretching the reason people use drones. You can view drone footage on YouTube and see many excellent video footage of countryside and ocean shots. At an altitude of 100 feet you will strain to hear mine flying above you. They have satellite orientation control to stabilize flight and many safety features for automatic return to home point as well as the ability to land on their own. You can equip them with prop guards so if someone just happened to get to close to one. Manned helicopters and airplanes fly over you everyday making more noise than unmanned drones.
    I think many are just not familiar with them and like many other stupid restrictions they don’t listen or investigate the facts. I have an insurance policy with a 2.5 million dollar liability umbrella.

    I don’t use mine for naked bodies or disturbing the peace. I am taking video or photographs from angles people don’t get to see everyday,
    So go ahead and ruin the opportunity to see the world from a different view,