YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK — Three cases regarding the use of unmanned aircraft in Yellowstone National Park have resulted in three convictions.
Donald Criswell of Molalla, Oregon, had been charged with violating the ban after he flew his unmanned aircraft, or drone, over the crowded Midway Geyser Basin and close to bison on August 19. On Thursday afternoon, October 2, he pled guilty to the charge of violating a closure and was fined $1,000 plus court costs.
In late September, Theodorus Van Vliet of the Netherlands entered a guilty plea in connection with an August 2 incident where his unmanned aircraft crashed into Grand Prismatic Spring. He was fined $1,000 and ordered to pay over $2,200 in restitution.
Earlier in September, Andreas Meissner of Germany pled guilty to charges arising from operating an unmanned aircraft which crashed into Yellowstone Lake near the West Thumb Marina back on July 18. Meissner was sentenced to a one year ban from the park, was placed on one year of unsupervised probation, and was ordered to pay over $1,600 in fines and restitution.
All three successfully prosecuted cases arose from well documented violations of the prohibition of the operation of unmanned aircraft along with other violations of park regulations or impacts to park resources.
The regulation was enacted due to the conflict or impact with a variety of park uses including disturbance of wildlife, impacts or damage to sensitive geothermal areas, and the creation of public safety hazards posed by their unregulated use. The ban is contained in the 2014 update to the Superintendent’s Compendium, which can be found online at http://go.usa.gov/mzRV.
In addition, National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis signed a policy memorandum in late June that directs superintendents nationwide to prohibit launching, landing, or operating unmanned aircraft on lands and waters administered by the National Park Service.
As these three instances illustrate, park rangers are enforcing the ban on unmanned aircraft operation in Yellowstone National Park. Violators could be subject to a mandatory court appearance, confiscation of their unmanned aircraft, and if found guilty could be subject to fines and other penalties.