The National Park Service has banned the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, and after a series of incidents this summer, officials in Yellowstone National Park and elsewhere have stepped up their efforts to publicize and enforce that ban.
At least three visitors have been charged in Yellowstone in connection with the use of drones, including a visitor from the Netherlands who allegedly crashed his unmanned aerial vehicle into Grand Prismatic Springs, the park’s largest hot spring, which is a favorite among photographers for its varying bands of intense color.
Though it is against park regulations to shoot videos using a drone, their use was not specifically prohibited until this summer. A handful of videos posted to YouTube offer a glimpse of why camera drones are so popular with professional photographers and casual visitors.
The increasing ease of use and affordability of small, lightweight aerial vehicles means they aren’t likely to disappear from use any time soon. Various models of remote-controlled helicopters—about the size of a shoebox or smaller—can fly to heights of 100 feet or more, hovering or following a specified flight path.
Equipped with tiny, high-definition cameras, the drones can be operated with a smartphone, and can capture compelling images from a bird’s-eye view. Popular models area available online for $300 or less.
Across a broad range of areas, the quickening pace of technological development will pose a continuing challenge for park managers in determining the appropriate use of new kinds of cameras, communication tools and other devices.
But regardless of your views on whether drones are appropriate in Yellowstone, Grand Teton or other parks, the compelling footage in these videos—all shot before the use drones was banned—is worth checking out.