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Drones at Yosemite mucking up serenity: Visitor camera drones now banned or not?

Drones at Yosemite are becoming a problem, but is a new ban of drones legal?
Drones at Yosemite are becoming a problem, but is a new ban of drones legal?
Photo by Philipp Guelland/Getty Images

Yosemite National Park puts visitors in touch with nature and all the beauty it has to offer through the sights and sounds within the park’s boundaries. Having the picturesque view of a bald eagle soaring or the peregrine falcon in mid-flight interrupted by a noisy unmanned drone puts the spoils on the unspoiled scenes of nature for many, according to ABC News on May 3.

Apparently a day doesn’t go by without a drone seen flying over the waterfalls and cliffs of Yosemite. The infiltration of drones at the park prompted officials to remind visitors that drones are not allowed in the park per federal regulations.

Park officials started reminding park visitors on Friday that drones are actually banned from Yosemite. The visitors are using the drones to get aerial view pictures of the waterfalls and other natural wonders the park has to offer. These breathtaking views from above are only accessible with a drone camera.

The drones were not only disrupting the natural peacefulness of the park for visitors, but they are disturbing some of the park’s birds and other wildlife. Park officials believe that the folks using the drones have no idea that they are illegal in the park, so they are on a mission to start reminding them that the drones are banned.

Greg McNeal from Forbes Magazine claims that the regulations the park is citing has nothing to do with drone use. He reports that the law is not on the side of the park for keeping drones from infiltrating the skyline at Yosemite. The regulation that Yosemite officials are supposedly enforcing now says nothing about an unmanned aircraft, it talks about vehicles that transport people, as in a plane with a pilot.

After analyzing the regulations, McNeal offers his conclusion:

"Thus, under both the National Park Service’s definition of aircraft, and the FAA’s interpretation of aircraft (if the Pirker interpretation holds, the FAA has appealed), provisions referencing aircraft in National Park Service regulations will not apply to the use of drones."

It sounds as if the park rangers will be reminding visitors that drones are banned, but in all actuality, they are not listed under the vehicles banned at the park.

The drones are now plentiful for purchase in the marketplace and the prices are not out of the reach of the general public. This is why drone owners are multiplying in leaps and bounds.While not cheap, drones are available for a purchase price range similar to the price range of a laptop computers.

Just like a laptop, the basic drone starts around the $300 range and works its way up to the commercial models, like the type used by the TV news teams, which range from $1,000 to $4,000.

According to Motherboard, Drones for personal use have a vast range in price. It all depends on the functions of the drone. The BBC purchased a drone to use for news reporting that cost about $4,000. Some drones can be piloted via an app on your smartphone, like the AR 2.0, which costs $369.

Some drones have stabilizers that allow them to fly in the rain, like the Toruk, which lists for $900. A drone like the Phantom 2 can soar to heights near 1,000 feet for $869.

Some drones are available today for a few hundred dollars, but they offer limited function. For the distance, height and duration of a flight, folks are paying between $400-$4000 for the drones used for personal activities. This is the price range seen in the drones used for taking the aerial pictures in parks, like Yosemite.

International Business Times reports companies like the Lockheed Martin Company manufacturing drones the size of planes, which is a totally different type of drone use than the small drones made to bring cameras in the air for a bird's eye view. The plane size drones are used in the military.

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