Lately, it’s been next to impossible to scroll through a Facebook feed without encountering a repost of some kind of drone footage. Drones taking you inside a volcano. Drones taking you into a fireworks display. At times, it might seem like drones are taking over the world.
There’s no doubt that drones can capture some spectacular videos, but not everyone likes the idea of using them to get up close and personal with nature: the National Park Service (NPS), for one. It’s not interested in jumping on the drone train.
The NPS, which manages all 58 National Parks throughout the USA, has launched a temporary ban on drones within the country’s National Parks. This includes launching, operating, or landing a drone—basically, using a drone in any way its meant to be used. The ban is not necessarily set in stone forever: its temporary nature means that it’s a way to stop the problem while the NPS determines a more suitable long-term solution.
First, drones are noisy. The drone videos that make it online are usually set to some toe-tapping tunes, but in reality, the devices can be something of a nuisance to those who have set out to enjoy some peace and quiet in a national park. Apparently, these people are somewhat vocal with their complaints.
Second, drones can be invasive. Part of the appeal of drones is that they can fly just about anywhere—like exploring the natural habitats of animals who would normally flee from a person trying to film them. But drones can go too far: take the case of a drone filming some bighorn sheep in Utah’s Zion Nation Park. The drone agitated the sheep and ended up separating the little ones from the adults. Interfering with animals=not a good thing.
Finally, unruly drones can damage fragile artifacts and delicate ecosystems if they aren’t controlled carefully. For instance, visitors to Arizona’s Grand Canyon National Park weren’t terribly impressed to watch a drone crash into the canyon. Sure, the Grand Canyon has survived tougher conditions—but what would happen if a drone crashed into Mount Rushmore or a bird nest?
Beyond National Parks
The problems outlined aren’t limited to the frontiers of National Parks. Indeed, individual state parks are setting their own drone bans, like California’s Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Colorado’s Garden of the Gods public park. Chances are pretty good that others will soon follow in their footsteps.
Drones aren’t evil—the NPS sees them as something new that requires certain protocol to ensure that they are used properly and responsibly. Unfortunately, that means banning them outright while the NPS figures out exactly how to regulate their use. Plus, the NPS does acknowledge that drones can do some good. Drones are still permitted to be used in National Parks for fire safety, search and rescue operations, and for scientific study. Once appropriate regulations are established, hopefully responsible filmmakers can get back out there, bringing us closer to the incredible wilderness in our backyards—safely.