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Public Lands: National Park Service wins convictions in three separate drone-ban violations

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Drones may be a nuisance if they’re misused but they can also help scientists track wildlife. USGS Photo.

Will fines deter other would-bee drone pilots?

Staff Report

FRISCO — The National Park Service showed that its ban on drones has teeth. The federal government in three different cases won convictions against park visitors charged with violation restrictions on unmanned aerial vehicles.

An Oregon man Oct. 2 pled guilty to the charge of violating a closure and was fined $1,000 plus court costs. He was charged after he flew his unmanned aircraft over the crowded Midway Geyser Basin and close to bison on August 19.

A Dutch visitor whose drone crashed into Grand Prismatic Spring in early August was fined $1,000 and ordered to pay $2,000 in restitution, while another tourist from Germany in September pled guilty to charges arising from operating an unmanned aircraft which crashed into Yellowstone Lake near the West Thumb Marina back on July 18. Continue reading

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National Park Service bans drones

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Big sky, no drones. Photo by @cotravgirl.

Agency to develop comprehensive long-term policy for new class of aircraft

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — If you’re visiting Yosemite, the Grand Canyon or other iconic American national parks this summer, you may have to contend with the normal problems like crowded parking lots, but at least you won’t have to dodge low-flying unmanned aircraft.

The National Park Service has issued a blanket ban on drones, as they’re popularly called, directing individual parks to draft written statements explaining how the ban is consistent with existing regulations. The new directive came from National Park Service director Jonathan Jarvis. Continue reading

Public lands: National parks crack down on drones

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Badlands National Park — not a place for drones.

Yosemite, Zion national parks issue reminders on aircraft regulations

Staff Report

FRISCO — Citing impacts to wildlife and other concerns, the National Park Service has cracked down on the use drones in Yosemite and Zion national parks under existing rules that regulate aircraft in the parks.

According to a press release from Yosemite National Park, drone use has skyrocketed the past few years, as visitors use them to film rock climbers and to get other aerial footage. Along with concerns about impacts to nesting raptors, park service officials said drones can impact the natural soundscape, which the agency is required to protect. Continue reading

Could drones help battle wildfires?

Test sites proposed to learn how drones could improve wildfire monitoring, mitigation, and containment

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Images taken from space can provide a lot of information about wildfires, but low-level flights by unmanned aircraft could help make firefighting safer and more efficient, some experts believe. This image of the West Fork Fire Complex in the San Juan Mountains of southern Colorado was taken June 26 from the International Space Station. Visit this NASA Earth Observatory page for more information about the image.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A pair of U.S. Senators wants to get a leg up on wildfires by spurring the use of unmanned surveillance aircraft to make firefighting efforts more efficient.

“Extreme wildfires have become an all too common occurrence in Colorado, leaving families without homes and hundreds of thousands of charred acreage in their paths,” said Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO). “We need to employ every tool available to help firefighters in their battles. This bipartisan amendment will help us develop UAS technology and teach us more about how they can strengthen our fights against wildfires more quickly and safely.”

Bennet (D-CO) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) this week introduced an amendment to create two additional test sites for unmanned aerial systems, with a focus on how they could be used for firefighting. Continue reading

Colorado: Drones eyed for greater sage-grouse monitoring

Public invited to learn more about the use of unmanned aircraft at a demonstration in Kremmling

FORT scientist and Raven-A sUAS pilot Leanne Hanson launches the drone. USGS photo.

FORT scientist and Raven-A sUAS pilot Leanne Hanson launches the drone in the San Luis Valley as part of an effort to monitor sandhill cranes.  USGS photo.

Greater sage-grouse. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Greater sage-grouse. Photo courtesy USFWS.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — State and federal scientists may use small drones to monitor greater sage-grouse in their breeding grounds, and will offer the public a chance to see how the technology works starting next week.

The planned test flights are a collaboration between Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the U.S. Geological Survey. The agencies will conduct test flights to evaluate whether the small unmanned aircraft can save time and money and offer a safer and enhanced alternative to gather greater sage-grouse data.

The low-flying aircraft may be able to get more detailed counts of the threatened birds, and may even help biologists find previously unknown leks.

“The aircraft proved successful in other recent wildlife inventory projects conducted by USGS,” said Lyle Sidener, area wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife in Hot Sulphur Springs. “We are interested to see if greater sage-grouse will tolerate the craft flying near their leks at the lower altitudes necessary to provide useful data.” Continue reading

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