Camera Drones Banned From Yosemite National Park For Disturbing The Wildlife

As the debate continues about the appropriate use of drones for photography, Yosemite has clarified that you can't use them in the park

yosemite drone

yosemite drone

Yosemite has clarified its rules for when it comes to drone photography, and it turns out that you're not allowed to use flying cameras while within the park's boundaries. In a recently released statement, the park clarified that a long standing federal regulation applied as much to drones as it does to other aircrafts. The statement, in full, says:

Yosemite National Park advises visitors that the use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (Drones) are prohibited within park boundaries due to regulations outlined in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Specifically, the use of drones within the park boundaries is illegal under all circumstances. Thirty Six CFR 2.17(a)(3) states, “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” is illegal. This applies to drones of all shapes and sizes.

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.

Visitors traveling to the park should be aware that the use of drones is prohibited while visiting the park and should not be utilized at any time.

You can read the full text of the federal regulation here. Since this is clarifying a rule that's already on the books, this now raises questions about other parks, too. The cited regulation applies to all "persons, property, and natural and cultural resources within areas under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service." Which means there's a good chance that drone photography is banned at all National Parks. For Yosemite it makes a lot of sense, as these flying machines can create a lot of noise and air displacement, and could easily disturb local wildlife.

Unsurprisingly, given its natural grandeur, Yosemite has proven to be a popular park for drone videos.

This comes as part of a larger conversation about the legality and the use of aerial drones. Currently, they're fine to use for non-commercial purposes, but as soon as it becomes commercial, the FAA starts to get involved. That, it turns out, includes journalistic use, which has raised some hackles.

Right now, the massively spiking popularity of unmanned aerial vehicles for photography and video has raised many questions about safe regulation of these devices. Hopefully, some sort of compromise could soon be met that will allow for a balanced approach.

Image: still from Beautiful Yosemite National Park by Laurent Youm

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