Sunday, June 22, 2014

National Park Service Moves to Ban Drones

The National Park Service ordered a ban on people using drones in the 401 national park areas in the U.S., marking a new battleground over the proliferation of unmanned aircraft in U.S. skies. National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis signed a policy memorandum Friday that orders the superintendents of national park areas by Aug. 20 to prohibit landing, launching or operating drones on federal park land or water, an area covering 84 million acres. The park service said it is banning drones in response to safety concerns, noise complaints and an incident in which a drone reportedly separated some young bighorn sheep from the herd. The policy is temporary until the park service proposes a specific federal regulation for drones, which should take about 18 months, Mr. Jarvis said. "There may be specific parks where it is appropriate to use them. This gives us a chance to take a good hard look at that," Mr. Jarvis said. Drone complaints have increased in recent weeks, he said, "and we wanted to get ahead of Christmas, when everyone is going to get one." Park goers appeared mixed on the decision. Raphael Mazor, a 36-year-old environmental scientist from Long Beach, Calif., said that while there is room for drones in national parks under some conditions, "unregulated use will likely lead to a lot of problems with hikers and wildlife, and [the park service] should understand those problems before they allow them." Jim Bowers, an artist from Colfax, Calif., who has used his drone to film national parks, said he understands limiting the devices, "but an outright ban is a kneejerk reaction." Mr. Bowers has only used drones to "capture the national parks' beauty from a new perspective," he said. "I equate my drone with what Ansel Adams did with his box camera."...more

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