This is a question many wonder about. Can drones be flown in National Parks? After all, our National Parks make up some of the most beautiful land we have. Why wouldn’t you want to fly your drone there and get some amazing aerial shots of untouched nature. Also, crowds won’t be a problem, and you wouldn’t have to worry too much about flying over people or getting harassed by strangers when you’re trying to concentrate on flying. But is it legal?
Can drones be flown in National Parks? What the National Parks Service Says
In June 2014, as a response to the explosive growth of drones, the National Parks Service acted. They decided to “use the authority under 36 CFR 1.5 to prohibit the launching, landing, or operation of unmanned aircraft.” Why not say that you can’t fly in a national park? Why emphasize the launching and landing? That’s because that would require authority under CFR 14, which covers aeronautics. Since that is the responsibility of the Federal Aviation Administration, not the National Parks Service, they do not have the authority.
What this means for you
So, while it’s not technically against any regulation to fly over national parks, you’d need an area outside the park to launch and land. Since you always need to maintain sight of the drone, and assure that you aren’t flying over people, this severely limits how much national park you’re going to be able to legally fly over. For example, the famous Half Dome in Yosemite National Park is located about 20 miles from the entrance to the park, so you wouldn’t even be able to get close. There are exemptions to this rule, but there are very few. You would most likely not get an exemption just to take photos for personal use.
Can drones be flown in National Parks? Should They?
While you might be able to find ways to legally fly over national parks, should you? One reason people enjoy our national parks is the quiet serene escape it offers. Many people would like to get away from the hustle of the city and especially the noise. There are other locations you should consider, as well. The Bureau of Land Management allows take offs and landings on its land and so does the Forest Service.
In conclusion, while it might be possible to fly over our National Parks without breaking any laws, it’s probably not a good idea. You won’t be able to fly over much of it, just the perimeter. There is the possibility for confrontation with park service employees or guest. Hikers and other using the park might not like you flying there. They won’t necessarily know or care that you are being legal.
Make sure you check out what kind of land you have in your neighborhood and what the local rules are. For example, south of Denver there is national forest land. While it’s usually legal to fly over national forest there are local rules that forbid it on this specific location. Make sure you stay updated on local news and regulations and that you are being safe. If you have any doubts about the rules or feel like you could use more schooling on the subject, we have a solution. Our Part 107 Drone license class does more than prepare you for the test. We make sure you walk out of there with a solid understanding of airspace, safety, and regulations.