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Drones Grounded In National Parks, For Now

Ryan Beck
Screencap from video uploaded by user Ryan Beck showing drone footage shot in Rocky Mountain National Park.

It’s now illegal to use drones within national parks in Colorado and across the country. The National Park Service initiated the ban in late June, but park officials had two months to implement the policy.

It’s easy to see why people want to use aerial drones in places like Rocky Mountain National Park. The nimble vehicles can go where most humans can’t – capturing photos and breathtaking videos that are way better than your average home video.

On the other hand, there have been reports of drones disturbing and scaring wildlife like bighorn sheep. The ban was prompted by concerns for the safety of people and animals.

Although Rocky Mountain National Park officials say they haven’t had any major issues so far, there have been plenty of complaints from visitors at other national parks.

"Issues including drones flying over them, impacting their experience," RMNP spokeswoman Kyle Patterson said. "There have been instances of drones crashing near people, and other issues pertaining to drones. We’ve been very fortunate."

Anyone cited for using drones inside a national park could face a misdemeanor charge and a fine of up to $5,000.

Drones may not be grounded forever, though. The National Park Service says they will consider new rules that could designate areas within the parks where drones can be used. In the future, park officials may even turn to drone technology to help locate injured or stranded visitors.

In the meantime, we’ll just have to enjoy videos like this one made prior to the ban.

As the host of KUNC’s new program and podcast In the NoCo, I work closely with our producers and reporters to bring context and diverse perspectives to the important issues of the day. Northern Colorado is such a diverse and growing region, brimming with history, culture, music, education, civic engagement, and amazing outdoor recreation. I love finding the stories and voices that reflect what makes NoCo such an extraordinary place to live.
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