Calling unmanned drones a dangerous harassment, the National Park Service is moving to ban them from 84 million acres of public lands and waterways across the country. A policy memorandum signed Friday instructs the National Park Service’s 401 park superintendents to prohibit the launching, landing or operation of unmanned aircraft in their park.
Jonathan Jarvis, the park service’s director, said that drones can disturb birds’ nesting patterns, distract climbers, disturb hikers and harass visitors to locations from Yosemite to Mount Rushmore, the Associated Press reports.
“Imagine you’re a big wall climber in Yosemite working on a four-day climb up El Capitan, and you’re hanging off a bulb ready to make a (difficult) move, and an unmanned aircraft flies up beside you and is hovering a few feet from your head with its GoPro camera running,” Jarvis said. “Think about what that does to your experience and your safety.”
Officials in Utah’s Zion National Park already banned drones after noticing unmanned aircraft harassing youngster bighorn sheep, causing them to become separated from their herd. Other incidents in parks around the country have also led to drones being banned.
Many drone operators say unmanned aircraft flights can be made with respect for other park users and wildlife. Jarvis says he wants to regulate drones before their use becomes even more widespread, as unmanned aircraft get cheaper and more high-tech.