Frequently Asked Questions
Why did the NPS restrict unmanned aircraft?
The National Park Service embraces many activities in national parks because they enhance visitor experiences with the iconic natural, historic and cultural landscapes in our care. However, due to serious concerns about the negative impact that flying unmanned aircraft can have for safety of visitors, staff, and wildlife, they have been restricted in all but a few parks.
If I am flying my unmanned aircraft in the national airspace and do not take off, land, or operate from NPS lands and waters, is there anything the park could do to stop me?
Unless an unmanned aircraft pilot obtains special permission through the FAA, use of unmanned aircraft must remain line of sight. In addition, although they do not directly address unmanned aircraft, the following existing 36 CFR sections may apply under certain circumstances.
- If the unmanned aircraft pursuits or harasses wildlife or creates an intentional disturbance of wildlife nesting, breeding, or other activities, the user could be cited for a violation of 36 C.F.R. § 2.2.
- If the user of the unmanned aircraft knowingly or recklessly creates a risk of public alarm or nuisance by causing noise that was unreasonable under the circumstances or by creating a hazardous or physically offensive condition, the user could be cited for disorderly conduct under 36 C.F.R. § 2.34.
- 36 C.F.R. § 2.12(a)(3) prohibits, in non-developed areas, operating a device powered by a portable motor or engine, except pursuant to the terms and conditions of a permit.
Can I launch and land my unmanned aircraft outside the park boundary?
The NPS has no authority outside park boundaries; the unmanned aircraft operator would have to get the permission of the landowner.
How do you enforce the prohibition on unmanned aircraft?
Park rangers enforce the prohibition, they have discretion to look at potential violations on a case-by-case basis.
Is violation of the prohibition on unmanned aircraft a felony? Misdemeanor?
Violation of the ban is a misdemeanor with the maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.
Does the National Park Service use unmanned aircraft?
The National Park Service uses unmanned aircraft for administrative purposes when appropriate and approved by the director of the region in which the park is located.These purposes may include search and rescue operations, fire operations, scientific study, and aerial photography.