National Parks Service Temporarily Bans Drones Over Its Lands, Waters

June 23, 2014

The National Park Service last Friday temporarily banned the launching, landing or operating unmanned aircraft or drones on lands and waters it administers.

National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said the ban would be in effect the NPS can determine the “most appropriate policy that will protect park resources and provide all visitors with a rich experience.”

He said the service has “serious concerns about the negative impact flying unmanned aircraft is having in parks.”

Several national parks have already banned drones. These parks initiated bans after noise and nuisance complaints from park visitors, an incident in which park wildlife were harassed, and park visitor safety concerns.

Jarvis cited several incidents where unmanned aircraft have raised concerns.

Last September, an unmanned aircraft flew above evening visitors seated in the Mount Rushmore National Memorial Amphitheater. Park officials said rangers confiscated the unmanned aircraft.

In April, visitors at Grand Canyon National Park were interrupted by a loud unmanned aircraft flying back and forth and eventually crashing in the canyon. Later in the month, volunteers at Zion National Park witnessed an unmanned aircraft disturb a herd of bighorn sheep, reportedly separating adults from young animals.

The policy memo directs superintendents to use their existing authority within the Code of Federal Regulations to prohibit the use of unmanned aircraft, and to include that prohibition in the park’s compendium, a set of park-specific regulations.

The memorandum does not affect the primary jurisdiction of the Federal Aviation Administration over the National Airspace System, the parks service said in its memo.

Jarvis said the ban is a temporary measure. Jarvis said the next step will be to propose regulations regarding unmanned aircraft. That process can take time and will include opportunity for public comment.

All permits previously issued for unmanned aircraft will be suspended until reviewed. The NPS must approve any new special use permits authorizing the use of unmanned aircraft. The NPS itself may use drones for search and rescue, fire operations and scientific study. These uses must also be approved.

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Topics Legislation Aviation

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