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US national parks move to ban drones from their skies

US national parks move to ban drones from their skies

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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.

"Hovering a few feet from your head with its GoPro camera running"

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."

Two parks, including the Grand Canyon, have already moved to ban drones. Each park will have to amend its own rules in order to ban them, as they're being direct to do, but the park service is reportedly also looking into ways that it can ban them from a national level as well. With today's order, the park service is trying to get out ahead of drone enthusiasts, who have been quickly growing in numbers as drones become more accessible through lower costs and greater capabilities. While much of their use in national parks would likely be to film wildlife, the park service has already seen instances of drone operators — intentionally or not — harassing animals, according to the AP.