Drones news

The latest buzz on flying drones in state and national parks: Rules can still be vague

The latest buzz on flying drones in state and national parks: Rules can still be vague
The latest buzz on flying drones in state and national parks: Rules can still be vague
<p>It&nbsp;was a nearly perfect day at Children&#39;s Pool Beach in La Jolla: seals at rest in the sand, tourists gathered along the cliffs, sea gulls wheeling above. And in the middle of it all, a hovering drone.</p> <p>&quot;Wouldn&#39;t it be great if the gulls attacked?&quot; one bystander asked.</p> <p>&quot;Who is flying that drone?!&quot; demanded another, voicing worries that the drone could endanger pregnant seals on the beach.</p> <p>Nobody spoke up and the drone soon zoomed away, which left the rest of us to wonder: Was that expedition legal or not? The answer wasn&#39;t immediately clear. (More on that in a moment.)</p> <p>Travelers &mdash; especially drone enthusiasts &mdash; should know that public park policies vary widely when it comes to unmanned aircraft. Before you send anything aloft &mdash; or holler in protest about somebody else&#39;s aircraft &mdash; it&#39;s wise to do some homework.</p> <p><strong>Besides the Federal Aviation Administration&#39;s restrictions on small unmanned aircraft (http://knowbeforeyoufly.org), many parks have their own restrictions. However, some public agencies are moving much faster than others on this subject.</strong></p> <p>If you&#39;re headed for a national park, for instance, the answer is simple: Drones are banned until the National Park Service comes up with a long-term policy. That ban covers not only the 59 full-fledged national parks but about 350 national monuments, seashores and other sites run by the NPS, about 84 million acres in all.</p> <p>The provisional ban dates to 2014 when, citing safety and noise issues, NPS Director Jon Jarvis issued a no-drones policy. The temporary ban carries a maximum penalty of a $5,000 fine and six months in jail.</p> <p>NPS spokesman Jeffrey Olson said the agency will probably offer a draft administrative rule to update the policy this summer, with a final rule likely to take effect a few months later.</p> <p>&quot;Are there going to be drones in the Santa Monica Mountains or Yosemite or the big iconic parks? Probably not,&quot; Olson said.</p> <p>However, he said, &quot;we think that there are going to be some places in the national park system where drones could be allowed.&quot; One example: Gateway National Recreation Area in New York and New Jersey, which has been a favorite spot for model plane enthusiasts for more than a decade.</p> <p>In late 2014 a tourist was fined for crashing a drone into Yellowstone National Park&#39;s Grand Prismatic Spring. U.S. Park Police reported at least 10 unmanned aircraft incidents in the NPS areas of Washington, D.C., in 2015, including the Dec. 16 citation of a man operating a drone near the Washington Monument grounds.</p> <p>&quot;We&#39;ve written some tickets, but far and away most of the cases are handled as an educational moment,&quot; Olson said.</p> <p>There&#39;s no such blanket ban in California&#39;s state parks. In fact, the state park system has no system-wide drone policy in place, California State Parks spokesman Dennis Weber said. But he noted that existing state laws would apply if a drone posed a danger to visitors or wildlife. Weber said the parks department has no statewide figures on citations or warnings associated with drones.</p> <p>Individual state parks, however, have put drone restrictions in place. At Hearst Castle in San Simeon, director of marketing and communications Jim Allen said, &quot;We do not permit the use of drones.&quot; Allen said he was unaware of any drone citations in the last year.</p> <p>Now back to Children&#39;s Pool Beach in La Jolla, which is supervised by city of San Diego lifeguards. A spokesman for San Diego&#39;s Lifeguard Services said the agency has no specific policy for drones and that he hadn&#39;t heard of any particular problems with them. However, he noted, the Children&#39;s Pool Beach is covered by federal laws stating that &quot;you can&#39;t harass or molest any of the seals or sea lions.&quot;</p>
1/12/2016
14275