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US National Park Rules
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ChasesDronePics
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This summer in the next few days I will be traveling around to a few different US National Parks. I want to get drone footage of my trip, but want to do it in a safe and responsible manner. Can anyone share with me the rules on flying (or not being able to fly) in National Parks or Forests? If there is a website or page on faa's website I can view that has rules that would be great too. I've looked around and seen that you cannot fly in national parks but I have not found a source, just word of mouth. Thank you!
2017-6-8
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Maxi3D
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If a Mavic flies in a National Forest and no one notices it, does it exist?
2017-6-8
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DRONE-flies-YOU
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https://www.nps.gov/policy/PolMemos/PM_14-05.htm
2017-6-8
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Highasakite
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Sorry sir,  Most if not all national parks and forests are off limits for sUAS. Look up the parks you are going to, and see what the web site says. Call them and ask them if you could even get a permit of some kind? Be  very, very careful my friend!!! Fines can be brutal, not to mention ruining your vacation! Safety First! Ken.
2017-6-8
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ChasesDronePics
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Highasakite Posted at 2017-6-8 11:48
Sorry sir,  Most if not all national parks and forests are off limits for sUAS. Look up the parks you are going to, and see what the web site says. Call them and ask them if you could even get a permit of some kind? Be  very, very careful my friend!!! Fines can be brutal, not to mention ruining your vacation!  Safety First! Ken.

That's what I thought I'll be careful about it, thank you.
2017-6-8
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Flycaster
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From what I have read, and understand, you cannot take off and fly in a National Park.
BUT, if you park/step outside the N.P. boundary, and launch OUTSIDE the N.P., and controlling it OUTSIDE of the boundary, you can fly over the park etc.
Unfortunatly, all the neat stuff mat be a wee bit out of ranger in some cases
2017-6-8
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DroneFlying
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Flycaster Posted at 2017-6-8 12:03
From what I have read, and understand, you cannot take off and fly in a National Park.
BUT, if you park/step outside the N.P. boundary, and launch OUTSIDE the N.P., and controlling it OUTSIDE of the boundary, you can fly over the park etc.
Unfortunatly, all the neat stuff mat be a wee bit out of ranger in some cases

That's correct: the National Park Service gets to dictate what you do while you're in the park, but they can't do anything about it if you fly over it while piloting from outside. As you pointed out, though, that loophole has only limited usefulness.
2017-6-8
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ChasesDronePics
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DroneFlying Posted at 2017-6-8 13:53
That's correct: the National Park Service gets to dictate what you do while you're in the park, but they can't do anything about it if you fly over it while piloting from outside. As you pointed out, though, that loophole has only limited usefulness.

I'll keep this in mind, but as of right now I think I'll play it safe and not fly at all near the National Parks. Thank you!
2017-6-8
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Sangarone
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What if, hypothetically speaking, you were a "criminal" and lived life by your own rules... Are the National Parks technically NFZs in terms of the app itself or is it just against the law to fly there? My question being, can you physically fly your drone if you are inside the boundaries of a national park or does the app block it?

I have been to national parks around the world and, while I agree some regulation is needed, calling NPs off limits entirely is insanity. I understand the drone commotion can ruin serenity and enjoyment for other people but Ive been camping before where I havent seen another human for days.
2017-6-8
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VMav
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It's sux.  With increasing numbers of quads nowadays places to fly become more scarce.
2017-6-8
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Xman1
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DRONE-flies-YOU Posted at 2017-6-8 11:44
https://www.nps.gov/policy/PolMemos/PM_14-05.htm

Isn't your policy out of date?  I believe it has been amended and the FAA policy is the one in force now.

Unfortunately, National Parks is still out.

Fortunately, National Forests are not, with the exception of wildlife sanctuaries.  
2017-6-8
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DroneFlying
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Sangarone Posted at 2017-6-8 18:05
What if, hypothetically speaking, you were a "criminal" and lived life by your own rules... Are the National Parks technically NFZs in terms of the app itself or is it just against the law to fly there? My question being, can you physically fly your drone if you are inside the boundaries of a national park or does the app block it?

I have been to national parks around the world and, while I agree some regulation is needed, calling NPs off limits entirely is insanity. I understand the drone commotion can ruin serenity and enjoyment for other people but Ive been camping before where I havent seen another human for days.

Are the National Parks technically NFZs in terms of the app itself or is it just against the law to fly there?

It's just against park rules to pilot a drone from within the park. The FAA doesn't prohibit flights over them and I checked a couple of places in DJI's GEO map and didn't find anything related to the parks themselves, only to nearby airports.

Yes, noise the reason given I've heard most often, but apparently noise pollution is already a big problem in U.S. parks even without drones.
2017-6-8
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Maxxpsoft
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Some of the most beautiful stuff I have seen in these parks over my life can't do an aerial video of. Think each park should have a permit you can apply for and use.
a. Drones must be clearly marked with non removeable identification
b. No flying low near wildlife or people.

I'd pay a (small) fee to be able to do that.
2017-6-8
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Ron in Utah
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https://www.nps.gov/articles/unmanned-aircraft-in-the-national-parks.htm
2017-6-8
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ro_flyer
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DroneFlying Posted at 2017-6-8 19:07
Are the National Parks technically NFZs in terms of the app itself or is it just against the law to fly there?

It's just against park rules to pilot a drone from within the park. The FAA doesn't prohibit flights over them and I checked a couple of places in DJI's GEO map and didn't find anything related to the parks themselves, only to nearby airports.

Strangely you can't fly your drone in national parks because of its noise, but you can join helicopter tours in Grand Canyon AZ / Volcanos HI National Parks... some of them you can ride your motorbike, boat, etc...

2017-6-8
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ro_flyer
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Maxxpsoft Posted at 2017-6-8 19:21
Some of the most beautiful stuff I have seen in these parks over my life can't do an aerial video of. Think each park should have a permit you can apply for and use.
a. Drones must be clearly marked with non removeable identification
b. No flying low near wildlife or people.

couldn't agree more...
2017-6-8
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QHovey
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I think the one of the best compromises would be to allow parks to designate drone take/landing areas. These areas would typically be places that are already on a higher elevation than its surroundings, and have a nice open area for takeoff and landing. Park rangers can easily police these area, if they see a drone but no operator at the nearby designated spot, they know its illegal.

There are a lot of blanket laws in regards to drones right now. With the ever decreasing price and size, and increasing popularity, I think the laws will eventually become more regulations rather than just straight up bans.
2017-6-26
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chalde
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ro_flyer Posted at 2017-6-8 20:17
Strangely you can't fly your drone in national parks because of its noise, but you can join helicopter tours in Grand Canyon AZ / Volcanos HI National Parks... some of them you can ride your motorbike, boat, etc...

Yep - but no-one is making a profit from us flying drones...
2017-6-26
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ro_flyer
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chalde Posted at 2017-6-26 18:29
Yep - but no-one is making a profit from us flying drones...

Except DJI... I would not mind to pay a (fair) tax to fly a drone in National Parks...
2017-6-29
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Algan
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i dont understand. i will have a trip next week to LA, SF, and Vegas. in maps all places are green (NFZ map), so i think i can fly in those zones right? except airports, those are red.
2017-6-30
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seeker_ktf_
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Algan Posted at 2017-6-30 00:56
i dont understand. i will have a trip next week to LA, SF, and Vegas. in maps all places are green (NFZ map), so i think i can fly in those zones right? except airports, those are red.

Shhh.  The National Park NZFs are not in the Geo Location stuff.  This is because it's not illegal to fly over the park.  It's only illegal to take off from the park.  Most parks are big enough that that distinction isn't all that important, but it allows you to fly.

Besides that, DJI NZFs are circles, so blocking out the parks would take out a lot of extra land much like they do with all of the AFBs that DJI blocks.
2017-6-30
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DroneFlying
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Algan Posted at 2017-6-30 00:56
i dont understand. i will have a trip next week to LA, SF, and Vegas. in maps all places are green (NFZ map), so i think i can fly in those zones right? except airports, those are red.

If you're seeing a lot of entries in areas where you hope / plan to fly then you should review DJI's GEO page, in particular the information on the specific types of zones and what the implications are of trying to fly in them. But the short answer to your question is yes, you should be able to fly within the green (Warning and Enhanced Warning) zones without any problem, at least as long as you have an internet connection during the flights.
2017-6-30
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Algan
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DroneFlying Posted at 2017-6-30 02:43
If you're seeing a lot of entries in areas where you hope / plan to fly then you should review DJI's GEO page, in particular the information on the specific types of zones and what the implications are of trying to fly in them. But the short answer to your question is yes, you should be able to fly within the green (Warning and Enhanced Warning) zones without any problem, at least as long as you have an internet connection during the flights.

well all my places are green, so no need an unlock =) thanks for the answer
2017-6-30
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Newislander
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Seems like taking off outside the park and taking your drone up to the flight ceiling of 400ft it's unlikely anyone will spot you or even hear your drone (certainly if it's a MAVIC). Of course, I'd question if you can maintain a line of sight (actually see the drone at that height, especially at a distance).

This is just speculation and quite frankly I do not want to put it to the test given the potential implications. Also, although you'd get some awesome photo's at the height, I'm not sure you'd accomplish any objective to capture any iconic shots, but really and truly I want unique footage and stills anyway.

Thoughts?
2017-10-27
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Hotelone4
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In National Parks the key phrase in the statute is "The following are prohibited: Operating or using aircraft on lands or waters other than at locations designated pursuant to special regulations." Launching outside a NP and flying in is still a no-no. On National Forest lands there are a lot less restrictions, unless the AC is taking off in a Designated Wilderness Area, or if there is some form of Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR ) in place (maybe wildfire closure) you should be OK. You CAN legally fly over a National Forest Designated Wilderness (don't launch!) area but not anywhere in a National Park, Designated Wilderness area or not. I bring my Mavic to work every day in Yosemite Valley and dream about flying around the walls but so far I've resisted temptation any only fly on my way home in the Merced river canyon that's in the Sierra National Forest. See the relevant NPS statute below:

36 CFR 2.17 - Aircraft and air delivery.

§ 2.17 Aircraft and air delivery.

(a) The following are prohibited:

(1) Operating or using aircraft on lands or waters other than at locations designated pursuant to special regulations.

(2) Where a water surface is designated pursuant to paragraph (a)(1) of this section, operating or using aircraft under power on the water within 500 feet of locations designated as swimming beaches, boat docks, piers, or ramps, except as otherwise designated.

(3) 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.

(b) The provisions of this section, other than paragraph (c) of this section, shall not be applicable to official business of the Federal government, or emergency rescues in accordance with the directions of the superintendent, or to landings due to circumstances beyond the control of the operator.

(c)

(1) Except as provided in paragraph (c)(3) of this section, the owners of a downed aircraft shall remove the aircraft and all component parts thereof in accordance with procedures established by the superintendent. In establishing removal procedures, the superintendent is authorized to: (i) Establish a reasonable date by which aircraft removal operations must be complete; (ii) determine times and means of access to and from the downed aircraft; and (iii) specify the manner or method of removal.

(2) Failure to comply with procedures and conditions established under paragraph (c)(1) of this section is prohibited.

(3) The superintendent may waive the requirements of paragraph (c)(1) of this section or prohibit the removal of downed aircraft, upon a determination that: (i) The removal of downed aircraft would constitute an unacceptable risk to human life; (ii) the removal of a downed aircraft would result in extensive resource damage; or (iii) the removal of a downed aircraft is impracticable or impossible.

(d) The use of aircraft shall be in accordance with regulations of the Federal Aviation Administration. Such regulations are adopted as a part of these regulations.

(e) The operation or use of hovercraft is prohibited.

(f) Violation of the terms and conditions of a permit issued in accordance with this section is prohibited and may result in the suspension or revocation of the permit.
2017-10-27
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DroneFlying
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Hotelone4 Posted at 2017-10-27 10:48
In National Parks the key phrase in the statute is "The following are prohibited: Operating or using aircraft on lands or waters other than at locations designated pursuant to special regulations." Launching outside a NP and flying in is still a no-no. On National Forest lands there are a lot less restrictions, unless the AC is taking off in a Designated Wilderness Area, or if there is some form of Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR ) in place (maybe wildfire closure) you should be OK. You CAN legally fly over a National Forest Designated Wilderness (don't launch!) area but not anywhere in a National Park, Designated Wilderness area or not. I bring my Mavic to work every day in Yosemite Valley and dream about flying around the walls but so far I've resisted temptation any only fly on my way home in the Merced river canyon that's in the Sierra National Forest. See the relevant NPS statute below:

36 CFR 2.17 - Aircraft and air delivery.

Launching outside a NP and flying in is still a no-no.

No, it isn't; you just can't launch or pilot from within the park, and doing so is only a violation of park rules and not FAA regulations, but the parks have no jurisdiction over what you do outside of them and in particular don't have jurisdiction over any part of the national airspace. In fact, the very material that you quoted but apparently misunderstood confirms this: operating or using aircraft on [park] lands or waters other than at locations designated. In other words, you can't operate / use a drone (or other aircraft) from national park land or water unless you're in a location designated otherwise -- but the NPS has no jurisdiction over the airspace.
2017-10-27
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Hotelone4
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DroneFlying Posted at 2017-10-27 10:57
Launching outside a NP and flying in is still a no-no.

No, it isn't. It's not a violation of regulations to launch outside a national park and fly over one; you just can't pilot from within the park, and doing so is only a violation of park rules and not FAA regulations. The parks have no jurisdiction over what you do outside of them, and in particular don't have jurisdiction over any part of the national airspace. In fact, the very material that you quoted but apparently misunderstood confirms this: operating or using aircraft on  lands or waters other than at locations designated. In other words, you can't operate / use a drone (or other aircraft) from national park land or water -- but the NPS has no jurisdiction over the airspace.

"Operating or using aircraft on lands and waters." I know of one appeal that argued that "on lands" didn't mean "over lands" but that appeal was dismissed.  For national parks the law is clear and established. Don't encourage people to do this, they can get fined and forfeit their drones. I personally know of at least three drone operators that were successfully prosecuted for launching outside the park and flying in.  $500 fines and one had to forfeit his AC. If someone would like to run a case past the 9th Curcuit Court of Appeals up to the Supreme Court let me know and I could call a guy and get the ball rolling!
2017-10-27
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DroneFlying
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Hotelone4 Posted at 2017-10-27 11:10
Please read the above again. "(a) The following are prohibited:
(1) Operating or using aircraft on lands or waters other than at locations designated pursuant to special regulations."

There's no need; I'm familiar with the rules and as I've explained, you've misinterpreted them.

I'm always puzzled when newbies choose to come on here and lecture others on things they clearly don't understand.
2017-10-27
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DroneFlying
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Hotelone4 Posted at 2017-10-27 11:10
"Operating or using aircraft on lands and waters." I know of one appeal that argued that "on lands" didn't mean "over lands" but that appeal was dismissed.  For national parks the law is clear and established. Don't encourage people to do this, they can get fined and forfeit their drones. I personally know of at least three drone operators that were successfully prosecuted for launching outside the park and flying in.  $500 fines and one had to forfeit his AC. If someone would like to run a case past the 9th Curcuit Court of Appeals up to the Supreme Court let me know and I could call a guy and get the ball rolling!

I personally know of at least three drone operators that were successfully prosecuted for launching outside the park and flying in.  $500 fines and one had to forfeit his AC. If someone would like to run a case past the 9th Curcuit

Cite, please. Otherwise you're just some anonymous person on the internet with an opinion -- and we all have one of those. Some of us also have a little knowledge of the facts.
2017-10-27
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Hotelone4
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DroneFlying Posted at 2017-10-27 11:12
There's no need; I'm familiar with the rules and as I've explained, you've misinterpreted them.

I'm always puzzled when newbies choose to come on here and lecture others on regulations they clearly don't understand.

Maybe I'm a newbie with the Mavic but I'm a retired LE NPS Ranger with 28 years under my belt, hardly a newbie in a court of law. Really, If you want challenge the law I can help. I'd love to see the regulation successfully challenged.
2017-10-27
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DroneFlying
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Hotelone4 Posted at 2017-10-27 11:17
Maybe I'm a newbie with the Mavic but I'm a retired LE NPS Ranger with 28 years under my belt, hardly a newbie in a court of law. Really, If you want challenge the law I can help. I'd love to see the regulation successfully challenged.

I'm a retired LE NPS Ranger with 28 years under my belt

If that's true you should know full well that helicopters and airplanes fly over national parks all the time, and though some find that fact annoying, nothing can be done about it by the NPS.

For National Parks, Helicopter Tours Are a Noisy Problem
2017-10-27
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BASE509
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I’ve been a BASE jumper for over 20 yrs and know all about flying in National parks. They have a few very old laws about aerial delivery they base all their restrictions off of. The NPS has ALWAYS been very difficult to deal with. They never grant permits for anything aerial. Don’t know if they would confiscate Drones but they confiscate parachutes if you jump in the parks. Considerate an option they make take. Be careful and willing to lose your drone if you fly in the park.
2017-10-27
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Hotelone4
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DroneFlying Posted at 2017-10-27 11:21
I'm a retired LE NPS Ranger with 28 years under my belt

If that's true you should know full well that helicopters and airplanes fly over national parks all the time, and though some find that fact annoying, nothing can be done about it.

Let me clarify. People on forums continually encourage people to launch outside national parks and fly in, citing the vague wording of the regulation. I agree with you that the NPS doesn't control the airspace. Now the reality. I go today and launch at Edison Lake, which is near the eastern edge of Yosemite NP in the Inyo National Forest and not in a designated wilderness area so fully legal to fly. I fly west to Tioga Pass and into YNP and draw attention to myself to a LE NPS ranger stationed at the pass. He drives down and contacts me. I make the bold and possibly accurate statement that "the NPS doesn't control the airspace". He might radio his supervisor for advice but probably not. He WILL write me a mandatory appearance citation. He might or might not seize my Mavic. I'll get a summons to appear in District Court in Yosemite about two months later. I go back to Yosemite with my expensive attorney and ask for a bench trial about two months later. We'll have the trial. I will lose. Now I'll need to appeal to the 9th CCoA. It's gone that far, it's cost me a lot of money and it's still not settled law. Like I said before I know of three cases of drone operators flying into the park from outside the park, all from the western entrance up to Arch Rock in the park and they were all successfully prosecuted. I'm not 100% sure what happened to the one that I think went up to the 9th but the NPS policy in enforcing this regulation stands.

My point is that legal theory aside, if you do this and get caught you will get cited and your AC may get confiscated. Is it legally correct? Maybe, maybe not. But it is reality. Appearing to encourage people to do this isn't good, unless their intent is to challenge the regulation all the way to at least as far as the 9th, and if that's the case and they know what they're in for then I'm all for it, and maybe I can help.

Edit: The Helicopter concessions are "permitted" operations per regulation by the Superintendent of Grand Canyon.


2017-10-27
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DroneFlying
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Hotelone4 Posted at 2017-10-27 11:49
Let me clarify. People on forums continually encourage people to launch outside national parks and fly in, citing the vague wording of the regulation. I agree with you that the NPS doesn't control the airspace. Now the reality. I go today and launch at Edison Lake, which is near the eastern edge of Yosemite NP in the Inyo National Forest and not in a designated wilderness area so fully legal to fly. I fly west to Tioga Pass and into YNP and draw attention to myself to a LE NPS ranger stationed at the pass. He drives down and contacts me. I make the bold and possibly accurate statement that "the NPS doesn't control the airspace". He might radio his supervisor for advice but probably not. He WILL write me a mandatory appearance citation. He might or might not seize my Mavic. I'll get a summons to appear in District Court in Yosemite about two months later. I go back to Yosemite with my expensive attorney and ask for a bench trial about two months later. We'll have the trial. I will lose. Now I'll need to appeal to the 9th CCoA. It's gone that far, it's cost me a lot of money and it's still not settled law. Like I said before I know of three cases of drone operators flying into the park from outside the park, all from the western entrance up to Arch Rock in the park and they were all successfully prosecuted. I'm not 100% sure what happened to the one that I think went up to the 9th but the NPS policy in enforcing this regulation stands.

My point is that legal theory aside, if you do this and get caught you will get cited and your AC may get confiscated. Is it legally correct? Maybe, maybe not. But it is reality. Appearing to encourage people to do this isn't good, unless their intent is to challenging the regulation all the way to at least as far as the 9th, and if that's the case and they know what they're in for then I'm all for it, and maybe I can help.

In other words, despite your initial lengthy post and strong implications to the contrary, you admit that you know of no law or regulation that would routinely prohibit a drone from being flown over a national park by someone outside of that park. I guess we're in agreement after all, then.
2017-10-27
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Hotelone4
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DroneFlying Posted at 2017-10-27 11:55
In other words, despite your initial lengthy post and strong implications to the contrary, you admit that you know of no law or regulation that would prohibit a drone from being flown over a national park by someone outside of that park. I guess we're in agreement after all, then.

Yes, we are in agreement. The way I read the regulation I agree with you that the NPS doesn't control the airspace and the regulation shouldn't apply to fly-in's fly-outs. But that's just me. But knowing what the NPS policy is and how THEY go about enforcing the regulation do you agree with me that encouraging people to do it is a little reckless? Until someone successfully appeals a case the NPS will  interpret "on lands" to read "over lands" and will continue to enforce and prosecute under that interpretation and people will continue to be fined and forfeit their AC's.
2017-10-27
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Irate Retro
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So park rangers have the ability to search you and seize your junk when you're not even on national park land?  When I saw him coming I'd throw the drone in the locked trunk of my car and deny him permission to enter the vehicle.  
2017-10-27
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Hotelone4
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Irate Retro Posted at 2017-10-27 12:07
So park rangers have the ability to search you and seize your junk when you're not even on national park land?  When I saw him coming I'd throw the drone in the locked trunk of my car and deny him permission to enter the vehicle.

If he/she sees you with "contraband" they can get into your car to seize it. Just like in the real world. "Hot pursuit".
2017-10-27
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Hotelone4
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BASE509 Posted at 2017-10-27 11:47
I’ve been a BASE jumper for over 20 yrs and know all about flying in National parks. They have a few very old laws about aerial delivery they base all their restrictions off of. The NPS has ALWAYS been very difficult to deal with. They never grant permits for anything aerial. Don’t know if they would confiscate Drones but they confiscate parachutes if you jump in the parks. Considerate an option they make take. Be careful and willing to lose your drone if you fly in the park.

Yeah, and hang-gliding goes on every weekend as a permitted activity in Yosemite.
2017-10-27
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AG0N-Gary
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Aircraft fly over National Parks all the time.  I've flown fixed wing full sized aircraft over Yellowstone Park.  No, I'm not encouraging someone to fly over the park.  By the way, the FAA, not the NPS controls airspace in the U.S.
2017-10-27
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ChasesDronePics
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AG0N-Gary Posted at 2017-10-27 19:04
Aircraft fly over National Parks all the time.  I've flown fixed wing full sized aircraft over Yellowstone Park.  No, I'm not encouraging someone to fly over the park.  By the way, the FAA, not the NPS controls airspace in the U.S.

The NPS doesn't control airspace but they don't allow drones in the park.
2017-10-31
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