Camera-Toting Drones Banned From Two U.S.
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[May 06, 2014]
By Mary Papenfuss
(Reuters) - Two U.S. national parks have
banned remote-controlled miniature aircraft from their airspace, saying
the camera-toting drones can frighten wildlife and even disturb the
nesting habits of birds.
Zion National Park in Utah warned visitors on Monday not to bring
drones, saying that the miniature aircraft have buzzed through
canyons, scattered a herd of bighorn sheep and noisily zipped along
walking trails disturbing hikers.
Zion's action comes just a few days after Yosemite National Park in
California issued a similar warning.
"I've seen drones buzzing in a meadow where people want to listen to
birds sing or the sound of the wind in the trees," Yosemite Ranger
Scott Gediman said.
Both Zion and Yosemite cited a federal rule that allows the use of
aircraft in the parks only with permission or for emergencies. The
penalty for violating the rule can be up to 6 months imprisonment
and a $5,000 fine, according to the Zion news release.
At Yosemite, visitors have increasingly used drones over the past
few years, park officials said in a news release on Friday.
"Drones have been filming climbers ascending climbing routes,
filming views above tree-tops and filming aerial footage of the
park," the Yosemite release said.
Drone tours of the park have even been posted on YouTube, a check of
the popular video upload site shows.
Rangers are particularly concerned about the disturbance of
peregrine falcons in nests in Yosemite's spectacular granite cliffs
of Yosemite, Gediman said. The drones have also created potential
hazards for rangers in helicopters trying to rescue stranded
climbers, Gediman said.
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Brendan Schulman, an attorney involved in drone cases, says he
believes the parks are interpreting the regulation wrongly, and that
it was intended to apply only to manned aircraft.
"That's not to say regulations shouldn't be put into place to
regulate drones in certain situations," said Schulman. "But drones
can also be helpful to monitor wildlife and help locate stranded
Schulman is battling the Federal Aviation Administration over the
use of drones by the EquuSearch Mounted Search and Recovery Team,
headquartered in Texas, which has employed the unmanned aircraft to
locate hikers in several states.
(Writing by Sharon Bernstein and Mohammad Zargham)
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