One of the best scenic locations in the entire United States is Yellowstone National Park. Flying a drone in these locations would be amazing, but are you allowed to fly there?
Recreational/hobby drone pilots may not fly a drone in Yellowstone National Park. On June 16, 2014, the National Park Service (NPS) issued a ban on the taking off and landing of recreational drones from within ANY national park in the U.S. That said, only emergency services, government officials, and drone pilots with special permission may fly drones in a national park.
While the NPS states you may not take off or land a drone recreationally in a national park, does this mean you cannot fly it over either? Keep reading to find out!
Can You Legally Fly Your Drone OVER Yellowstone Park?
National parks are very sensitive areas, and like national buildings and monuments, there are consequences to flying a drone in these areas. However, the law only states that you can’t take off or land in a national park. Does this mean you can fly over a national park?
Yes, it is perfectly legal to fly your drone recreationally over Yellowstone national park as long as you do not take off or land within the park and as long as you don’t interfere with wildlife. The National Park Service has even confirmed that this is perfectly acceptable in this article.
So as long as you can find a nice open area away from a national park that you can legally take off and land from, and that borders the national park, then legally you’re allowed to fly over any national park that you want. Which means you can still get that amazing drone footage you’ve been dreaming about!
Laws You Should Consider When Flying Over Yellowstone National Park?
You should still be cautious, as if your drone were to fail while you are flying over the park and crash, then you could face some heavy penalties as shown in this video.
While flying over the park you need to make sure that you still follow all the FAA drone rules and regulations. This is still a risky method in terms of compliance.
Another method you could use is to just fly outside the boundaries of a National Park and look for a vantage point to record from or take pictures from. This method is a lot safer and is 100% legal without exploiting any loopholes in the NPS and FAA rules and regulations.
The advantage of having a drone is that it is a flying camera and it can just continue to gain altitude until you can frame your shot the way you want it. It can also move left and right effortlessly without worrying about obstructions, and that means you will be able to find a great vantage point to shoot from.
On top of the FAA drone laws you should already know, here are some more rules you need to follow while flying over a national park:
- When flying, do not interfere with wildlife.
- Keep your drone within line of sight at all times.
- Do not be a nuisance to anyone or risk anyone’s safety.
So as long as you remain respectful and follow the FAA drone laws as well as the rules I mentioned above, then you shouldn’t have any problems with park services or law enforcement!
Why Are Drones Banned in National Parks?
Drones are amazing pieces of machinery that allow photographers and regular people to take their photography to new heights, Literally! However, drones can be a bit distracting as they are loud and can be a little irritating to the people around it at times.
Drones have been banned from national parks since 2014 due to multiple incidents that occurred in parks throughout the United States. Drones have caused disturbances to wildlife and visitors due to their loud noise and being a visual distraction, negatively impacting the overall experience for all.
Drones also have a negative impact on the quality of life of the different animals that are located within the park. Pilots can’t just simply avoid the populated areas of the park because animals are located all over the park and would not be avoidable.
When the ban was first put into action, drones were only just starting to become a popular hobby amongst enthusiasts. Now in 2020, droning is one of the most popular hobbies out there, so just imagine how many drones would be flying around National Parks if the ban was not put in place back in 2014!
Why Can’t You Fly a Drone at Yellowstone National Park?
When Yosemite National Park announced that they were banning drone flights within the park, many drone pilots had their eyes set on flying in Yellowstone.
Unfortunately, soon after a statement was put out by the NPS:
“We all operate under the same policy.”Jeff Olson of the National Park Service
Parks such as Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Zion were constantly experiencing frequent issues with drone pilots and have needed to make their policies clear.
Other parks have not really been too vocal about this ban even though it applies to them as well.
Drone Incidents at National Parks
Drones have caused some serious problems at National Parks both before and after they were banned.
There have been many incidents, but here are a few of the more publicly known ones:
- In August of 2014, a Dutch tourist crashed a drone into the Grand Prismatic Spring geyser at Yellowstone National Park. He received a 1-year ban and was also fined $3,200.
- Back in 2013, a drone pilot landed his drone right on Lincolns head at Mount Rushmore.
- A rogue drone once forced a Helicopter used by the Yellowstone National Park to land as park officials were afraid that the two aircraft could be involved in a collision.
With that being said, you’re probably wondering what would happen to you if you went ahead and flew your drone in a national park anyway? Well, keep reading to find out!
What Are The Consequences of Flying a Drone in a National Park?
There are a lot of things that can happen to you if you break the rules and regulations that have been set by the FAA and NPS. Here is what you could face:
- You could receive up to six months of jail time.
- You could also receive a fine that equals up to $5000!
Park rangers have full authority to implement the ban and assess any violations on a case-to-case basis. A lot of people tend to think that the NPS is not really serious about enforcing this ban and continues to try to push their luck.
However, I feel like I should inform you that there has been at least one tourist that has felt the full force of this ban and struck with the appropriate penalty!
Yellowstone Vs. Skydio
The drone manufacturer “Skydio” is being investigated for promoting its “true follow-me” technology with footage of a Rollerblader on the West Thumb Geyser Basin boardwalk.
Yellowstone has a clear ban on drones flying within the park and so do all other national parks. What makes this situation a lot worse is that in-line skating is also banned on the boardwalks.
Skydio, geo-tagged the Wyoming video as shot in Iceland, the video was viewed over ten thousand times before being taken down.
The Yellowstone National Park law enforcement rangers found out about the video.
“They are aware, and they will investigate it.”Morgan Warthin park spokesperson.
However, Warthin also made it known that the park deals with many drone incidents, and it is a problem they are constantly trying to deal with.