The National Park Service announced Friday it was barring drones from Yosemite, citing as reasons everything from wilderness protection to climbers’ safety. But the cited legal basis for the regulation, which carries up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine, doesn’t even apply to drones according to experts.
There’s no doubt the beauty of Yosemite and other national parks could be undermined if their horizons were clogged with buzzing drones filming everything below.
“The National Park Service has just decided, based on a very absurd interpretation of their regulations, to ban the use of drones,” Gregory McNeal, a Pepperdine University legal scholar, said in a telephone interview.
The law in question, the park service says, states “delivering or retrieving a person or object by parachute, helicopter, or other airborne means, except in emergencies involving public safety or serious property loss, or pursuant to the terms and conditions of a permit” is illegal. This, the service says in a statement, “applies to drones of all shapes and sizes.”
Charles Warren, an environmental attorney with Kramer Levin Naftalis & Franke in New York, is skeptical.
“I think it’s a questionable interpretation, frankly,” he said in a telephone interview. “The reason is the drone is not delivering or retrieving a person. I think it’s meant to apply to aircraft and gliders where people are actually in them. I think this would be difficult to uphold on a serious challenge.”
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