Drones banned from Acadia and other national parks

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ACADIA NATIONAL PARK — If you’re planning a trip to Maine’s only national park and think you might order drone deliveries of batteries or bug spray during your visit, you’ll have to reconsider.

Late last week, the director of the National Park Service sent out a memo instructing all park superintendents to ban the use of unmanned aircraft, or drones, in national parks.

In a news release issued June 20, NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis listed several incidents in which the recent use of drones in national parks has not been well-received.

Last September, rangers concerned about visitor safety confiscated a drone flying over visitors seated in Mount Rushmore National Memorial Amphitheater, according to Jarvis. In April, visitors at Grand Canyon National Park gathered to watch the sunset as a loud drone flew back and forth above them and then crashed into the canyon. That same month, volunteers at Zion National Park witnessed a drone disturb a herd of bighorn sheep.

“We have serious concerns about the negative impact that flying unmanned aircraft is having in parks, so we are prohibiting their use until we can determine the most appropriate policy that will protect park resources and provide all visitors with a rich experience,” Jarvis wrote in the prepared statement.

Officials with Acadia National Park could not be reached Tuesday morning for comment.

Jarvis indicated the policy measure is meant to be a temporary step that the park service hopes to replace with a uniform, agency-wide regulation restricting the use of drones.

The process of drafting and adopting a new park service regulation can take time, Jarvis noted, but will include public notice of the proposal and the opportunity for public comment.

Jarvis said an exception to the ban includes any park service use of drones for administrative purposes such as fire and rescue responses or scientific study.

All park permits previously issued for the use of unmanned aircraft will be suspended and reviewed by NPS officials in Washington, the director indicated. Superintendents in parks where the use of model aircraft for hobbyist or recreational purposes has been allowed may allow such activity to continue.

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