Yellowstone: No Permit Issued to Flier of Downed Drone

By Bryce Cornatzer
11 Aug 2014

Contrary to postulations on an online forum, the person whose drone crashed into a Yellowstone hot springs did not have a permit to fly a drone.

A poster to Yellowstone Net Forums suggests that the person whose drone went into Yellowstone's Grand Prismatic Spring two weeks ago was not being fined because the drone was part of a permitted commercial production.

“My frustration is people don't trust reputable news sources because they're not colorful enough,” said Al Nash, spokesperson for Yellowstone National Park.

The park issues permits for commercial photographers to take photographs and produce videos within the park. Capturing shots from air using a remote controlled device rather than a costly fly-over in a helicopter is not a novel idea.

“We have said no, for years,” said Nash. “We've had all kinds of people who've asked us to use remote controlled, unmanned aircraft. Consistently we've said no.”

Even credible commercial operations with industry reputations have applied for photography permits including remote controlled air craft. Those companies too have received rejections.

While the impulse to fly remote controlled devices over Yellowstone features is not new, an increased interest in and ownership of unmanned aircraft known as drones is what propelled the Park Service to issue a nationwide ban on all such devices over public lands.

Drones have attracted much national attention after the military began using them in intelligence operations, raising discussions around the issue of privacy. Some questioned whether or not drones might one day be used to spy on American citizens. Companies like Amazon wishing to capitalize on the technology saw an opportunity to deliver goods at a cheaper cost. An article in the International Business Times reports that Amazon is beginning to lobby for permission to test its drone delivery service.

Yellowstone's particular interest in banning drones was not privacy or wanting to squash innovation, but the protection of the park's natural features.

“Our focus was safety and protection of what's special about Yellowstone,” said Nash.

Nash refutes accusations that the Park Service flies drones for photography and policing purposes. A blanket ban on drones exists because too little is known about their impact on the environment.

“We're trying to figure-out what potential harm there is on the hot spring from this thing being there,” said Nash. “If we're able to locate it, is it possible for us to remove it without doing any more harm?”

Questions too were raised on the web forum over the park's reluctance to issue a citation to the drone's operator. Nash says Yellowstone officials do not issue citations for every offense, rather they look for “teachable moments.”

For Yellowstone officials, the drone landing in Grand Prismatic Spring is one such teachable moment.

Filed Under :
People : Al Nash