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Drones Banned in Yosemite National Park by National Park Service

By Anthony Thurston on May 4th 2014

If you had been planning on taking a trip to Yosemite with your drone for some unique shots of the park, it appears that you have missed your window of opportunity. This is according to a recent NPS (National Park Service) notice aptly titled “Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (Drones) Prohibited in Yosemite National Park.” dji-phantom-banned It was just a few weeks ago a court ruling effectively eliminated an FAA ban on commercial drone use, and it seemed that the skies were now open to drone pilots across the USA. But this new ruling by the NPS prohibits use of drones in Yosemite National Park, citing a variety of reasons ranging from disturbance of wildlife and noise concerns to harming the natural experience of others.

Drones can be extremely noisy, and can impact the natural soundscape. Drones can also impact the wilderness experience for other visitors creating an environment that is not conducive to wilderness travel.

It is unclear if this ban on drone use will be replicated at other National Parks, but it would seem likely that if drone use becomes an issue at others that the NPS would implement a similar ban.

[REWIND: FAA Ban on Drones Lifted]

I am not personally a fan of a straight up ban like this. I think that it would be a good idea for the NPS to offer drone permits, so they can limit the amount of drones on a given day, and help support the park. But a straight up ban across the board seems a bit harsh. Under the current rules, videos like this will now be illegal to create… What are your thoughts on this? Should drones be banned completely from use in Yosemite or other national parks? [via DIY Photography]

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Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. He recently started a new project, Fiercely Boudoir to help support the growing boudoir community. Find him over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Barry Cunningham

    Generally I think the ban is good. I could see some limited, rare and / or expensive permits with strict regulation to limit impacts.
    I was singularly unimpressed by the drone footage in the video. Besides the wobbly flying, most of it was overexposed and blown out. The shooting into the sun did not work well at all.

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  2. Ashevillian

    This ban is, quite simply, an extremely good idea.

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  3. Joshua

    I think the ban is warranted on every level, when you go to a national park you go to experience the beauty and tranquility that many generations have enjoyed before us, why else would you want to go? just to play with technology so people at home can sit on their butts and experience the national parks from the comfort of their computer chair. We need a better reason for people to visit the national parks and not be so connected to technology.

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  4. JW

    I partly agree with you, Anthony

    I see your legitime point of view that banning could be negative for the creativity of some people. But on the other side if they give out permits for drone flying, there are so many questions out there who also could not satisfy all of the people who want to fly their drones in Yosemite:
    – How many drones per day are suitful?
    – Who sets the limit of drones per day/week/month?
    – Who is eligible for such a permit?
    – First come, first serve?
    – Are there still complete “no flying zones”?
    – Who controls wether an appearing drone is legal or not?
    – What happens with crashed drones?
    – etc.

    And I am not even at the point where the discussion is about the impact of drones to birds, deers etc. and their behaviour. And you also have to consider technology and price advantages for the next 10 years where I really could imagine that people in NY could fly their own drone through Yosemite…

    Since in these national parks a thing called “nature” should be above all other interests, I fully understand this decision!

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  5. Stan Rogers

    “[D]rones on a given day”, in the plural, is a good enough reason for a general ban. If they appear at all, they should be exceptional, in much the same way that more conventional aircraft used for filming are right now. Which would mean that permits, when issued, would require some advanced application and a suitably-discouraging amount of red tape to cut through. It’s already difficult enough to keep the wilderness unspoiled with the throngs of idiots all trying to get their Ansel Adams shot (tangles of tripods everywhere and incessant shutter clicks); adding the constant whine of electric mosquitos screwing up the birds’ activities and stressing out the fuzzy critters who’d rather not be a hawk’s breakfast isn’t going to help at all. The whole point of the parks system is to set aside areas that we don’t want to ruin, yet we all (I’ll include myself in this) want to believe that our little transgressions of the natural order won’t really make a difference. Cumulatively, all of those “little nothings” add up to a great big something.

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  6. Daniel

    I think a complete banned is not necessary. But it is a good idea to have a permit from park authorities before using a drone. A permit could be given if the operator have a good skill in flying a drone, and the drone used should have minimal impact on the park.

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  7. EJ

    would have to agree on a ban in this case unless it was for commercial use to promote the parks and landscapes etc.

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  8. Black Z Eddie

    I agree with their banning. The major thing for me is that those things are loud! Imagine if every Dick, Tom, and Harry had those flying around the park.

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    • Anthony Thurston

      I partly agree, which is why I offered up the by permit use only suggestion. Seems a shame to ban them completely. With permits, the NPS could make sure that only a handful are used and where they could be used. Best of both worlds, videographers get to get the unique shots they want, and everyone else gets to enjoy the park without disruption.

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  9. Rick

    While I agree that it seems a bit strong, for once I will support the NPS on this decision. Ambience and awe are a large part of the Yosemite experience for thousands every year and having drones buzzing overhead would definitely ruin everyone’s enjoyment. Outside of the valley, I agree that “permitted” use should be an option. And this is from a shooter who has had to work around the NPS once in a while with gritted teeth, and a soon-to-be drone camera pilot. As always, common sense should be the rule. With so many people in the Valley, open drone use would end up diluting the wonder of nature for too many.

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