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Signature needed: Ban drones in national parks

Zack Malit via CREDO Mobilize

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July 1,2014

Don't lift the ban on drones in national parks

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The National Park Service has temporarily banned dangerous and obnoxious drones in our national parks -- but it's now writing regulations that may lift the ban.1

Drones are sophisticated unmanned aircraft. They can be purchased for just a few hundred dollars and most are equipped with powerful video cameras. Drones are more than noisy eyesores -- they have been used to harass wildlife in national parks, can be used to surreptitiously film park-goers without their consent, and pose a serious safety risk.

We need to speak out now and make it clear to the National Park Service that we want America's national parks, monuments, battlefields, historic sites, seashores, rivers and trails protected from drones. That’s why I started my own campaign on, which allows activists to start their own petitions. My petition, which is to the National Park Service, says the following:

Don't lift the ban on drones in the nearly 90 million acres of land, and waters, managed by the National Park Service.

Will you join me and add your name to my petition urging the National Park Service to ban drones in national parks?

Drones are a relatively new technology, and federal agencies like the National Park Service are only beginning to decide how to regulate them. Rules like the National Park Service's will not only determine whether our national parks are protected from drones, but will also set an important precedent for how drones are regulated elsewhere.

Until now, drones have been largely free to operate in public places as long as they stay below 400 feet in relatively unpopulated areas and avoid full scale aircraft. Recent headlines tout a National Park Service temporary ban on drones but a lawyer who represents drone proponents says he expects that the ban will be “greatly narrowed” through the federal rule-making process and drones will be given free range in some national park-controlled locations “including things like beaches and forests.”2

Private drone operators are clearly a danger to the public. According to Federal Aviation Administration records, since November 2009, law enforcement agencies, universities and other registered drone users have reported 23 accidents and 236 unsafe incidents. And that doesn't even count drones flown by amateur hobbyists, who have repeatedly crashed drones into skyscrapers and caused dozens of terrifying near-collisions with commercial airplanes.3

Even military-grade drones have an appalling safety record. According to a Washington Post investigation, military drones, more than 400 of which have crashed in major accidents since 2001, "have slammed into homes, farms, runways, highways, waterways and, in one case, an Air Force C-130 Hercules transport plane in midair. No one has died in a drone accident, but...many catastrophes have been narrowly averted, often by a few feet, or a few seconds, or pure luck."4

Drones clearly don't belong in our national parks. Will you join me and add your name to my petition urging the National Park Service to ban drones in national parks?

Zack Malitz

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1. Mark Berman, "National Park Service bans drone use in all national parks," The Washington Post, June 20, 2014

2. Mike M. Ahlers, ”National Park Service bans drones over safety, noise worries,” CNN, June 21, 2014

3. Craig Whitlock, "Close encounters on rise as small drones gain in popularity," The Washington Post, June 23, 2014

4. Craig Whitlock, "When drones fall from the sky," The Washington Post, June 20, 2014