U.S. National Park Service Bans Recreational UAVs

By By Katie Kriz, Assistant Managing Editor | July 1, 2014
Send Feedback

The U.S. National Park Service has put a policy memorandum into effect that prohibits the use of unmanned aircraft in all of the country’s national parks. Following noise, nuisance and safety complaints from park visitors and staff, NPS enacted a policy requiring UAV operators to obtain special permission to use any kind of unmanned aircraft in the parks.

Jeffrey Olson, spokesman for the National Park Service, was quick to say the ban will not affect the work of any emergency services in the area.

“We’ve maintained what we call administrative uses of unmanned aircraft, which would include search and rescue, fire and scientific study,” explained Olson.


NPS put the current policy memorandum into place while the final regulation undergoes approval. During this process, the National Park Service will be accepting input and opinions from the public about the use of unmanned aircraft in these areas. The input will be used to determine which parks are appropriated for unmanned aircraft.

“This is an interim policy that will developed at the park level. Then, in the meantime, we are looking to promulgate a regulation within the court of federal regulations that covers the National Park Service,” Olson stated. “That’s an 18-month process and comments and public notice are a part of the rule writing process.”

Anyone that wishes to fly a UAV in one of the country’s national parks can apply for an NPS permit that will allow them to do so. According to Olson, filmmakers and producers often use parks to film scenes for movies and television shows. The filmmakers will “need to explain why they need to use an unmanned aircraft, and we’ll look at their film permits to see if they can or cannot be added.”

Although the policy is in effect for all parks under the National Park Service, there are some parks, according to Olson, that will still allow the use of unmanned aircraft. 

“There is at least one grandfathered provision in this,” said Olson. “There are several national parks where model airplane clubs have long-standing relationships with a park. Gateway National Recreation Area in New York City, for example, has what’s called Floyd Bennett field so they have an airstrip inside the park. That’s an obvious place where model airplane use will continue. So if there are existing uses of model airplanes, hobbyist uses, those will continue.”

Related: Unmanned News

Receive the latest rotorcraft news right to your inbox