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Drone crashes into Yellowstone hot spring, defying park rules

Even though unmanned aerial vehicles are banned in national parks, a tourist manages to accidentally fly one into Yellowstone's famous Grand Prismatic Spring.

The largest hot spring in the US, Yellowstone's Grand Prismatic Spring US National Park Service

Only two months after the US National Park Service banned drone flying in the country's parks, a camera-equipped unmanned aerial vehicle went and crashed in Yellowstone's most famous hot spring, according to Reuters.

Apparently, a tourist wanting to get some up-close images of Grand Prismatic Spring -- known for its scorching temperature and brilliant blue, green, and yellow coloration -- lost control of the drone sending into the depths of the geothermal pool.

Park officials are debating over whether to try to find the device and remove it from the hot spring so that it won't damage the natural resource. The logistics of such a maneuver could be difficult, however. Grand Prismatic is the largest hot spring in the US, and third largest in the world -- it's 370 feet in diameter and more than 121 feet deep.

"What we have to determine is whether the presence of this radio-controlled recreational aircraft poses a threat to that unique resource," park spokesman Al Nash told Reuters.

This isn't the first incident of drones affecting natural resources and wildlife in national parks. Earlier this summer, another drone crashed into a marina at Yellowstone Lake. And, in May, rangers caught tourists unintentionally scaring a herd of bighorn sheep in Utah's Zion National Park with an unmanned aerial vehicle.

All of these drone encounters caused the National Park Service to lay down the law about drone use on its public lands. In June, the service said it was issuing a temporary policy memorandum to prohibit unmanned aerial vehicles in the country's 401 national parks, which cover 84 million acres of land and waterways.

Several national parks, like Mount Rushmore, the Grand Canyon, and Yosemite, had already moved forward on drone bans before the National Park Service's memorandum. In May, officials overseeing Yosemite grounded all drone use. They said unmanned aerial vehicles disrupt the park's natural landscape, interfere with visitors' experience, and have negative impacts on local wildlife like the peregrine falcons that nest on cliff walls.