Drones grounded in Yosemite

The National Park Service bans the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in the park's confines, saying they disrupt the wilderness experience and interfere with emergency services.

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A drone operating in Yosemite National Park. National Park Service

Enterprising nature photographers hoping to capture unique images of Yosemite's stunning beauty can now leave at least one piece of cutting-edge equipment at home: the drone.

The National Park Service, which oversees the California park, warned would-be Ansel Adamses in a brief missive on Friday that the use of unmanned aerial vehicles is now prohibited within the park because they are a disruption to Yosemite's natural landscape and interfere with visitors' experience as well emergency services within the valley. The service said the new rules are a reaction to a recent increase in the use of drones within the park to photograph tree-top perspectives of the valley and record climbers ascending the challenging rock-climbing routes.

"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 message read. "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 prohibition message, which was also posted to Yosemite's Facebook page, noted that the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 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."

However, some Facebook users pointed out that drones are being banned from photographic purposes from the valley based on apparently unrelated transportation applications. "Clearly a drone can't carry a person. As long as it doesn't drop off, or pick up anything, how is it prohibited?" a David Gadling wondered.

Drones have taken off in popularity in recent years with hobbyists and businesses. Amazon made a splash when it announced in December its plans to embark on a drone delivery service.

However, Amazon and drone-makers could still run into regulatory turbulence from US lawmakers and the Federal Aviation Administration, which finally relaxed its six-year ban on drone use last November. After cautiously allowing for the use of drones in certain situations, such as farmers monitoring their crops, the agency announced in March that it was opening its stance even further by considering case-by-case approvals for commercial drone use.

 

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