Is Banning Drones from National Parks a Good Idea? Lemme Think About That. OK, Yes!

by Hugh Brownstone23 Comments

Like you, I love photography and videography. And I think aerial photography, especially drone aerial photography, is fascinating.

But I’m willing to bet that, like me, you hate the sound of a gas-powered leaf blower or lawn mower shattering a weekend morning at 7:00AM. Or the annoying buzz of a quadcopter drone in the middle of the incredible stillness and beauty of a national park.

Not sure?

Last night we returned from a 10-day road trip out in the American southwest. We were fortunate to spend time in Mesa Verde and Garden of the Gods in Colorado; the White Sands National Monument in New Mexico; and the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area in Nevada.

We were headed toward the Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde when I heard the unmistakable bleating of a leaf blower. Whatever drop in blood pressure I’d experienced from entering such an enchanting place and being at one with nature and history disappeared in a flash.

There oughta be a law!

Turns out the National Park Service is already on the case – at least for drones – with certain exceptions for researchers, rescue operations and yes, filmmakers.

Sounds like a good idea to me.

What do YOU think? Sound off in the comments below!

US national parks move to ban drones from their skies

Drones may soon be banned from US national parks, as the National Park Service has begun moving to prohibit them in order to protect wildlife and visitors, according to the Associated Press. The park service is ordering all 401 of its parks to instate new rules that would ban the launch, landing, and flight of drones within park grounds. Parks would still be allowed to grant permits to parties such as researchers, rescue operations, and filmmakers to operate them, so long as they explain why a drone is necessary for their work.

US national parks move to ban drones from their skies

The park service has already seen drones disturbing sheep, and it's concerned that drones could disrupt birds in their nests too. As for visitors, the park service doesn't see it as a simple matter of ensuring that drones don't block someone's view: there are also some serious safety issues. “Imagine you're a big wall climber in Yosemite working on a four-day climb up El Capitan, and you're hanging off a bulb ready to make a (difficult) move, and an unmanned aircraft flies up beside you and is hovering a few feet from your head with its GoPro camera running,” National Park Service director Jonathan Jarvis tells the AP. “Think about what that does to your experience and your safety.”

Read complete article on The Verge “US national parks move to ban drones from their skies”

Note: it is our policy to give credit as well as deserved traffic to our news sources – so we don't repost the entire article – sorry, I know you want the juicy bits, but I feel it is only fair that their site get the traffic and besides, you just might make a new friend and find an advertiser that has something you've never seen before

(cover photo credit: snap from The Verge)

Hugh Brownstone

Hugh Brownstone

Hugh is the founder of Three Blind Men and An Elephant Productions. He and the team write, direct, shoot, score, and edit web-centric films; conduct photo shoots; and write copy, white papers and blog posts. Hugh also writes screenplays (he recently optioned a TV pilot) and just published his first eBook (Apple's iPhone: The Next Video Revolution). If it's about telling stories, it's in their wheelhouse.

And always with the ambition of authenticity, humanity and wit.
Hugh Brownstone


  1. I fully agree. There were drones buzzing a NYC Police Dept helicopter recently reported in the news. I can see how nesting birds could be harassed. Think of a nesting bald eagle seeing one of these drones coming to it’s nest. Drones flying in the middle of fireworks displays, over people at the beach, etc.. While I too would like to and will get one in the future, there has to be some control over what can be done with them.

  2. I strongly disagree. As an avid outdoor adventure enthusiast this immediately makes me think of how the Park Service, Forest Service and BLM have mismanaged the issues regarding bolting rock climbs and also the access to wilderness areas in general. Should drones use be regulated in National Parks? Absolutely. Should Surfers, Rock Climbers, Kayakers, Skiiers, Mt. Bikers and other users of National Parks and lands for recreation face a blanket ban because a few individuals will not use common sense? I don’t see how that is in anyway fair.

  3. They should be required to be permitted and only when they can be quieter.  They are way to loud for nature enthusiast and the whole purpose of the National parks system is for people to enjoy the outdoors without having loud buzzing taking over the sounds of nature.

  4. tedvandell I agree with you to an extent. Drones as I said, should be regulated in the National Parks. You have to start somewhere. Pay a fee for using one and if you don’t have the sticker, pay a stiff fine? I am not a lawyer, but there has to be some regulation in place to protect the wildlife, environment, etc.. And it IS the few individuals that will cause the hammer to come down on everyone. They will be used as the example.

  5. Well if we are banning things that annoy people then I want ATV’s, jeeps, Trucks, hunters, gun shooters Etc banned they make noise and are just dangerous to people and damage the peace and tranquility.

  6. Off road vehicles as well as hunting is very limited and heavily regulated in National parks.  Try again.

  7. Big 4 wheelers and trucks, motorcycles, and snowmobiles make a lot more noise and emit polluted air. but no way to ban those given the numbers of people using them. Quads have zero emissions. The Parks should realize aerial photography and videography can actually REDUCE environmental impact as people will be able to see videos and pictures of places they may not then visit personally.  The Parks should limit days, times and locations for shoots, and have people register their quads when they arrive, give them a day permit for shooting in certain locations.

  8. I feel that government has already gone way too far in micro-managing absolutely everything we do in life. The rule should be, “use common sense in what you do – and if you do something stupid, you get slammed”. For instance, if you fly a drone next to a rock climber, or something else equally stupid, get your drone & camera confiscated immediately, and possibly worse, if what you do causes any problem. It isn’t a good thing to regulate to such an extreme that you stiffle progress & creativity – just slam those who abuse the privilege – much better approach. Those who naively suppose that you can make it so that nothing bad can ever happen in life are at an extreme, it just isn’t feasible to continue down that road… it leads to a world in which you don’t dare do anything and most any endeavor or enterprise, whether business-related or personal, becomes essentially impractical to attempt, or a very least, so complicated and prohibitive in time and bureaucratic red tape required that the discouragement factor would automatically eliminate the vast majority of efforts and successes. I say, simply do a good slam on those who abuse and fail to abide by common sense and respect for others’ rights, but forgo the bureaucratic approach. If any of you have ever seen the old cartoon entiteld, “Cowboy after OSHA”, you will understand my attitude & posture on this matter, and in case you haven’t seen it, check it out here:

  9. wa1den While I can agree that sometimes safety measures seem a bit overboard, after having been around a huge manufacturing environment for many years, I can believe that most regulations save lives and limbs.

  10. With the plethora of absolute idiots that are buying drones and using them with absolutely no forethought of air traffic safety, it is only a matter of time before drones are banned in public places, and that time is short.

  11. Really because I off road JEEP and shoot and there is ZERO regulation on it so why don’t you try again.

  12. Correct, ZERO regulation for now, but mark my words, regulation is coming.

  13. Le’me think….. millions of toerist entering the area, leaving a shitload of garbage… People go there by car, obviously (hey, you’re and American right?) , so roads have to be made. Sure, it destroys a part of the nature there, but hey…. A Macdonalds has to be build ofcourse, and lot’s of other ‘eat and drink’ place so people can feed themselves… all build without question. 
    Ow, and if the military decides they need some space, they just claim a piece of land, without thinking about nature and the animals living there. If a city decides they need expension, they just build everywhere. Ow, and if that city needs a lot of energy, we just make a big dam, and flooding hundreds of square miles of nature…
    But… when that all has ‘settled’, we, people, decide that a piece of land/nature, all of a sudden is a national park… and we take good care all of a sudden to ‘preserve’ that small piece of nature. We people decide that only that piece of land is protected, and… we assign police and the law to protect that. And all of a sudden we think that even a small fart will kill the local wildlife, wildlife that probably will survive waaaaaay better then we ever will. Wildlife that has natural predators, so ‘being scared’ is part of their daily life… It’s a human interpretation anyway to ‘tell’ the animals are scared… 
    Here in the Netherlands, we had e-x-a-c-t-l-y the same discussion with kite surfing…. Kiters would ‘scare’ the local wildlife… a biologist could even ‘tell’ that ducks there where so frightnend they nearly died…. ducks that normally fly over crowded cities, and other human made things, but…. for kites, they where terrified! Yeah right. 

    Le’me tell you about nature. You fly a drone toward an animal,…. the sound, the size,… the animal doesn’t know what it is, so it tries to get away. After a while, animals start to learn, drones don’t kill ya, and perhaps the sounds still scares them a little, but…. after a while they probably don’t bother anymore… the same reaction they have toward humans (tourists), or other traffic. Sure some will push the drone to far, but hey, those probably would have done that anyway without a drone… trampling everything to get that perfect photo…. 
    So… sure I think it ‘s a good idea to ban drones flying there, because, man… those small multicopters, with electric motors (so no pollution) and deafning sounds ….
    We people are idiots, and hypocritical.  You must be a total idiot to really think that small drones do more damage then other people ever done or will do to nature ….. 
    And for people that want ‘peace and quiet’…. look how big this park is, did you really think you would hear 1 Phantom there flying around??? And knowing the flighttime of a Phantom…. it’s not that they fly for hours on end ayh…

  14. JePe Your statement about animals getting used to drones and comparing it to other animals that are accustomed to humans. Wrong. Ever walk up on a lot of wildlife that live in the city? Most flee, except the flying rats… err…. pigeons. What you suggest might be possible but there would have to be a constant exposure. Fly a drone towards birds nesting and see what happens. Again, something that won’t happen in the National Parks. And you are also wrong on the location of McDonalds and other such stuff with National Parks in the United States, well, you are speaking from lack of knowledge. 
    While I agree with you with kite sailing scaring ducks to death, and there might be over reaction, there has to be laws in place to protect what we decide to protect. You admit that “being scared” is a part of their life, why continue to do this? 
    And about the length of flights. They will only increase. 
    Besides, it is our National Parks.

  15. Reyfox JePe sure animals will flee, but that doesn’t mean the same as ‘harm’… birds also flee for dogs, cats, and lot’s of other animals. Same as ducks, even squirrels, and what not. But… that’s is proven, animals get use to humans after a while. That’s why I have a lot of birds in my garden rightnow, most just look if I go outside, but stay put… Only if I go fast, or sudden move, the just hop on the branches nearby. 
    Beside, that was the same with the kitesurf discusssion….. dogs are usually allowed , running free even. People find that ok, because ‘he finally can run around, chasing animals and stuff’ hihi haha…. just think about the birds in the area… what scares them more? Their natural enemy, a hunting dog or a kite (or in this case a flying drone)?? 
    I think people focus on the wrong thing here, that’s my point. Screaming there heads of now about drones (ie. multicopters), while most nature in the proximity is destroy by their own neglect, or greed, or … whatever. 
    Beside the sound, …. drones don’t harm the environment (if you keep it in the air at least), make a bit of noise, but no where near motorized crafts, and they don’t have any smoke or exhaust what so ever. 
    But… I agree with this all that I rather not see 10-20 phantoms buzzing all over the place, mostly since they are sold to the same guys that ‘have take a picture’ everywhere.. trampling everything in their path, annoy the hell out of other people (you know the type 🙂 )… You see that with Phantoms now also…month ago, there was one flying over a beachparty,… was bought by the owner, wanted to test it out (!!) , hadn’t flew that many times, and just flew dangerousely close over 20-50 people…  
    PS I bet that there are eating facilities around the national park….. it’s a big business, tourists coming over there, so…. I cannot believe there is nothing in the neighbourghood there… perhaps no Mac, but … I see plenty of other ‘tourists’ accommodations on google, in some parks… and the rest of the park is offlimit for most drones anyway, since you cannot fly these things in the woods, or any mountainace area for very far. 
    A well….

  16. JePe, there is a lot I agree with you on. A lot of people go to the National Parks in the States to “get away” from it all. Yes, they load up their RV’s with a/c, satellite dish and every other convenience known to man, but there are a lot of others that go out in the woods hiking, camping for days. And they do this for a variety of reasons, and some to get video and photos. But those are using long lenses to do this by not disturbing the animals. There are protected wildlife in these parks such as the national symbol, the bald eagle. Think of those wanting to video a nesting pair. What do you think would happen then? The eagle will just watch? No. I do think that drones should be registered and have to pay to be used in the park with a limit on the number. Nothing like a couple of thousand of those flying all over the place. Right now, there aren’t any hard fast laws with the use of them outside of the parks. But as I said before, the ones that will be held up as an example to have tough laws on them are the ones that do the dumb and stupid things, like buzz a police helicopter. Yes, some laws are extreme. Dogs running free to chase the ducks but someone off shore kite sailing is creating a problem. That is an over reaction. It is, at least for me, a difficult choice on where to draw the line. I am hoping that there will be some sane rules and regulations. But then, when has government ever been known to be “sane”. 🙂

  17. Reyfox JePe That’s PRECISELY the problem… when has government ever been known to be “sane”? That is exactly what scares me… micromanaging everything to the very last nit!

  18. There should be no surprise to all of this, when you have a device that can fly several hundred feet into any air space, and you have that available to the masses, what do you expect? Of course the government is going to intervene, they have to, to keep the idiot factor under some kind of control. Not to mention, if they smell a way of making money off some type of fee, it’s a no brainer.

  19. MacMarkIIHD Well, I’m NOT suprised, of course. But a better approach would be to come down on the idiots when they do stupid things (maybe confiscate their toys & fine them – or more, if they really cause harm). But again, that is a totally different mentality than government has these days. They instead prefer to just do blanket regulations and either put things totally off limits, or make it so that being in compliance is so prohibitively expensive & complicated that almost no one will be able to clear the bar they’ve set as a requirement. Personally, I feel that approach stiffles progress and unnecessarily limits everyone, rather than simply whacking the idiots good when they do something stupid, and letting people who bother to police themselves make use of the technology.

  20. @wa 1 den, that is a good thought, the problem with that is, there are way to many idiots. I agree it is a different mentality, and I know for a fact Dianne Feinstein is hell bent to pass legislation on the whole drone issue. My guess is they’ll regulate it with a licensing of some sort. The may go so far as to depending upon where one uses a drone you’ll need to prove to them you can pilot the craft with a certain amount of skill. Think much like a DMV, instead, Department of Drone Aircraft, the DDA. You think I’m kidding? Nope, wait and see.

  21. MacMarkIIHD 
    …there seems to be a lot of mention of large numbers of idiots using
    drones now. I’m not so sure it’s a matter of large numbers of idiots,
    actually – but you gotta admit, it’s the idiots that garner all of the
    media attention in the matter. When someone does something stupid, that
    definitely gets media attention, and it gets broadcast all over the
    place. Conversely, folks staying within bounds are noticed less and
    create no stir. Additionally, there is too much flap insinuating dangers
    to air traffic, and I would say that is a bunch of hooey. These things
    are flying within a service ceiling of 400 feet altitude (off the
    ground), and unless you are doing your drone flights at an airport, you
    aren’t going to run into manned aircraft at those altitudes, so I just
    don’t see it…. perhaps with commercial drones at a different level
    (those might eventually fly anywhere a manned craft can, and even beyond
    – but that isn’t what’s going on currently).  I think there’s entirely too much
    hyperventilating going on,in my opinion  (not that anyone is going to cease that just because of my opinion, but it’s WAY overboard).

  22. wa1den MacMarkIIHD Same could be said about the number of idiots putting people in danger but are fortunate enough not to have an incident happen.  That does not get reported as well. 

    The more they fly without regulation, the better the chances of more incidents happening.

    As far as manned aircraft, you forget about helicopters and all air craft regulated by the FAA allowed to fly that low.  Drones are capable of flying higher than 400 feet and if you see the 1000’s of videos out there, many of them are obviously higher than that.

    It’s all hype until someone dies.  Then it’s a problem.  Too many people want to fix the problem instead of preventing it.

    I am sure at some point in history someone said, “Why do we need seat belts built into cars?  No one has ever died in a car accident.”  And then someone did.

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