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Yellowstone Levels Criminal Charges at Drone Users Who are Violating the Park’s Ban

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Yellowstone is no longer taking a slap-on-the-wrist, “we’ll let you off with a warning” approach to people who violate the park’s ban on camera drones. Egged on by several incidents since the ban went into effect, the park is starting to file criminal charges against violators that could mean $5,000 fines and/or 6 months in jail.

The main reason for the crackdown seems to be Theodorus Van Vliet, who earlier this month crashed his drone into the Grand Prismatic Spring after it was widely publicized that the park had banned the use of the little RC helicopters.

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This incident has led to a long and expensive search for the drone — which has still not been found — as concerns mount about what this piece of machinery might do to the delicate bacterial ecosystem inside the hot spring. But Van Vliet is far from alone in breaking the ban.

Last week, one Donald Criswell was caught flying his drone over a crowded Midway Geyser Basin and close to bison; and a German tourist, Andreas Meissner, crashed his into Yellowstone Lake in July.

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All three are now being charged by the park as Yellowstone seeks to drive home the point that violating this ban means serious consequences.

Earlier this week, columnist Adam Griffith wondered who would be the one to get Drones banned nationwide. He guessed at a few fictional scenarios, including an unsuccessful manatee landing, but he may have missed the mark when he didn’t consider hot springs.

(via Yellowstone Gate)


Image credits: Grand Prismatic Spring by James St. John and Aerial view of Old Faithful Geyser and Old Faithful Lodge by Yellowstone National Park.