Parks Drone Ban Questioned

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Officials at two national parks have told visitors the use of drones within their boundaries is illegal but the absence of laws and regulations governing their use could make the ban short-lived. Last Friday, officials at Yosemite National Park in northern California reminded visitors via social media that drone use is "prohibited" and on Monday Zion National Park in Utah followed suit. They cited noise, safety and wildlife concerns in announcing the measure. The park staff warns that violators face a $5,000 fine or six months in jail but critics have noted the National Parks Service is applying fuzzy legal logic in trying to enforce the ban. 

In a blog post on the Forbes website, law professor Gregory S. McNeal says the existing laws on aircraft in national parks only apply to manned aircraft and the rules announced by the parks amount to bureaucratic decrees. "While they've decided they want to prohibit drones, it is clear the rules on the books don't address drone use," McNeal wrote. He said that until the Parks Service goes through all the necessary rulemaking steps "they are bound by existing rules." In this case, he argues, drones can't be banned because they aren't "aircraft" by the Parks Service or even the FAA's definition. McNeal says he thinks it's a good idea to ban drones in national parks but he wants it done legally.