The increasing ubiquity of drones has prompted Pinnacles National Park and others in the 401-park system to create rules banning the launching, landing or operating of unmanned aircraft from or on land and water within the 84 million acres of public lands.
“Rangers have documented four incidents of unmanned aircraft opation in Pinnacles National Park,” said park Superintendent Karen Beppler-Dorn. “The National Park Service embraces many activities in national parks because they enhance visitor experiences with the iconic natural, historical and cultural landscapes in our care. However, we have serious concerns about the negative impact that flying, unmanned aircraft is having in parks, so we are prohibiting their use while we examine their impact on park resources.”
The Associated Press this week reported that the park service is concerned that unmanned aircraft annoy visitors, harass wildlife and threaten safety. Because the use of drones is becoming more prevalent, park officials are writing rules to ban their use.
The use of unmanned aircraft, Beppler-Dorn said, “is a new park use that affects park resources, staff, and visitors in ways that the National Park Service has yet to identify and analyze. It is National Park Service policy to not allow a new park use until a determination has been made that it will not result in unacceptable impacts on park resources and values.”
An NPS memorandum says parks can continue to grant permits for drone flights for purposes such as research, search and rescue operations and firefighting, the AP reported. Beppler-Dorn confirmed that, saying the park service may use unmanned aircraft “for administrative purposes when appropriate” and approved by the associate director of visitor and resource protection.
“The primary goal is to ensure that we can protect park resources and ensure visitor safety while providing all visitors with a rich experience,” she said. The drone ban, Beppler-Dorn noted, “is an interim policy that will remain in place until the National Park Service develops a service-wide regulation to address unmanned aircraft through the public rule-making process.”