For those of us planning a visit to one of our many national parks this year, it’s important to remember the rules and regulations regarding drone use.

Drone Use

Drone use is explicitly banned in national parks across the U.S. on the basis that they are known to impact the solitude and quiet many of us are searching for in the parks, and because the drone noise may disrupt the wildlife found in the parks. A 2017 NASA study found that the sounds drones produce were approximately two times as annoying to the average person as the same volume of noise produced by a vehicle. Film companies with a permit to film in the park are also excluded from the use of drones.

Drone Enforcement

Users who violate the drone ban, may face a misdemeanor charge with a maximum penalty of six (6) months in jail, and a maximum fine of $5,000. Parks such as Crater Lake National Park are planning to more strictly enforce the federal laws with ban drone use. Park Rangers and other NPS employees will be on the watch for use of drones, and citations may be written.

Exclusions to Drone Ban

The sole entity who may use drones in the national parks is the National Park Service themselves. The NPS may use drones for search and rescue efforts, and forest fire management where the aerial views will provide big picture insight into the specific situations. The drones may also be used by the NPS to conduct wildlife studies, national park photography and archiving.

Public Lands where Drone Use is Permitted

At the time of publication, drones may be used in many national forests, and some state parks. The bottom line is that drones should be used only in approved areas, and where they will not impact the enjoyment of others.