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SALT LAKE CITY — We often give scary names to things that intimidate us, both objects and events. The newest name for a remote-controlled aircraft (known for years simply as RC aircraft) is drone. "Drone" is a menacing word, far more dangerous-sounding than "RC aircraft."
Recently Jonathan Jarvis, the director of the National Park Service, told the Associated Press that he “would sign a policy memorandum ... directing superintendents of the service's 401 parks to write rules prohibiting the launching, landing or operation of unmanned aircraft in their parks.”
Jarvis and others bring up valid points when supporting the decision to ban RC aircraft; in an incident at Zion National Park, bighorn sheep were being harassed. Many who oppose RC aircraft in national parks worry that those flying the drones will harass wildlife, such as birds in their nests or animals on the ground. They also worry the aircraft will bother climbers and cause safety issues.
These are all valid fears. But let's consider the following scenarios: Is it OK for a visitor to harass wildlife without a drone, such as by throwing rocks at bird nests? Can a visitor get in the face of a climber or use other distracting methods? Is it OK for one to leave the confined pedestrian area at Mount Rushmore and climb presidential faces? The answer to all of these is an absolute no.
These are things visitors can't do without aircraft, and they’re things they shouldn’t be allowed to do with RC aircraft. What is needed are rules that define acceptable behavior, guidelines for park visitors that apply to any activities they’re doing.
Citizens and government representatives need to work together to develop a set of standards to govern visitor conduct and correct those who violate the rules. Most RC aircraft are battery operated and are relatively quiet. Their footprint, if any, is minimal. They allow users to get breathtaking views of some amazing country. They allow visitors to capture the climb of their group or family or be a virtual part of it if they're not climbers themselves. They allow people to see wildlife from a distance, without interfering in the animals' natural habitat or putting themselves at risk by getting too close to the animals.
What's more dangerous than adopting this useful technology is to ban it outright. It stops progress, and discriminates against those who use it.
It’s time we start developing rules to govern RC Aircraft, and not ban them altogether.
Andrew Edtl loves to follow and write about politics, technology and world events. He is married and has two wonderful children. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org