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Yosemite bans drones from park

Sorry, drones: You're no longer welcome in Yosemite National Park, which wants tall redwoods and soaring birds to be the only items occupying the air
BY JULIANNE PEPITONE

Sorry, drones: You're no longer welcome in Yosemite National Park, which wants tall redwoods and soaring birds to be the only items occupying the air.

The U.S. National Park Service issued the unmanned aircraft ban on Friday, barring "drones of all shapes and sizes" within Yosemite's boundaries.

The Park Service cited a law that states “delivering or retrieving a person or object by parachute, helicopter, or other airborne means" without a permit in situations other than emergencies is illegal.

But the service is choosing to enforce that law now, in Yosemite, because more park visitors have begun using drones within the last few years -- particularly to film aerial footage of the park and people who are climbing.

That's a problem for Yosemite for several reasons, the Park Service said. Drones can be noisy, they can ruin the experience for other visitors and they don't exactly blend in with the great outdoors. The aircraft can also harm wildlife in Yosemite, and interfere with emergency services, the Park Service added.

The Yosemite ban is just a small part of the growing debate over drones as the unmanned vehicles have become more mainstream.

Google and Facebook each bought drone companies recently, and Amazon is pushing its concept for delivering packages to customers via unmanned vehicles.

The Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates American airspace, is expected to finalize commercial drone regulations in 2015. Rules for drones under 55 pounds could come before the end of 2014. The agency announced last month that North Dakota will be the first of six sites chosen for drone research.

But until the new rules come down, the current drone landscape remains confusing. In March an administrative law judge threw out a ruling against a man fined for operating a drone, saying the FAA doesn't have authority in the space -- because it hasn't written rules specific to governing drones.

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