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Drones in the United States of America (USA)

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Got a drone for Christmas? Don’t bring it to national parks!


Drones can capture awe-inspiring aerial photos and video of beautiful landscapes — just don’t try flying them in United States national parks, rangers warn.


“Did you or a loved one get a drone this week?” park rangers from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in Central California wrote in a Facebook post after Christmas. “We get it, drones are fun, but it is illegal to fly them in national parks.”


And the penalties can hurt... Violating the law can result in six months in jail and a $5,000 fine,” according to the National Park Service.


Why are drones banned from national parks?


Back in 2014, National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis signed a policy memo telling park superintendents across the U.S. to bar “launching, landing, or operating unmanned aircraft on lands and waters administered by the National Park Service,” the agency said in a news release at the time.


“We embrace many activities in national parks because they enhance visitor experiences with the iconic natural, historic and cultural landscapes in our care,” Jarvis said. “However, we have serious concerns about the negative impact that flying unmanned aircraft is having in parks, so we are prohibiting their use until we can determine the most appropriate policy that will protect park resources and provide all visitors with a rich experience.”


By that point, some parks had already banned drones on their own, according to the National Park Service. But the decision for a blanket ban across all national parks came after the spread of recreational drones caused several concerning incidents at parks.


A drone flying at South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore threatened visitors’ safety and was confiscated in 2013, and the next year volunteers at Utah’s Zion National Park “witnessed an unmanned aircraft disturb a herd of bighorn sheep, reportedly separating adults from young animals,” park rangers said.


Read more about drone rules in the US.

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