The latest buzz on flying drones in state and national parks: Rules can still be vague

Travelers — especially drone enthusiasts — should know that public park policies vary widely when it comes to unmanned aircraft. Before you send anything aloft — or holler in protest about somebody else’s aircraft — it’s wise to do some homework.

Besides the Federal Aviation Administration’s restrictions on small unmanned aircraft, many parks have their own restrictions. However, some public agencies are moving much faster than others on this subject.

If you’re headed for a national park, for instance, the answer is simple: Drones are banned until the National Park Service comes up with a long-term policy. That ban covers not only the 59 full-fledged national parks but about 350 national monuments, seashores and other sites run by the NPS, about 84 million acres in all.

The provisional ban dates to 2014 when, citing safety and noise issues, NPS Director Jon Jarvis issued a no-drones policy. The temporary ban carries a maximum penalty of a $5,000 fine and six months in jail.

NPS spokesman Jeffrey Olson said the agency will probably offer a draft administrative rule to update the policy this summer, with a final rule likely to take effect a few months later.

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