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


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.


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.


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.

  • kbb

    The fact that they’re bourgeois European a-holes that come here to accidentally dump electronics into Yellowstone National Park makes it even more important that they be held responsible and be made to pay….big time. It’s imperative that their fellow beings back in the EU learn quickly what not to attempt when visiting the USA.

    It’s clear that camera drones are, essentially, model aircraft. You want to fly an aircraft of any size in a National Park? Hows about you apply/pay for a permit and post a $1,000,000 certificate of insurance, just like movie producers have to. Oh, and you’ll have to buy a day’s salary for an off-duty park employee to act as your minder.

  • Markthetog


  • Rob Elliott

    you realize at least one of these people being charged is an American not a European right? and I think most people in EU would be busting a gut to hear an American say Tourist need to be more respectful.

  • Andy Austin

    I was just in Bryce and Zion in Utah, and right now it’s almost 90% Europeans. While they were most nice, they were trashing the place. I was up on Angel’s Landing and there were so many cigarette butts along the trail from the Europeans.

  • OtterMatt

    Violate the rules, get violated by Bubba. Seems like a perfectly reasonable punishment to me.

  • OtterMatt

    Please, don’t even try it. Americans are at least self-consciously aware of the reputation we have worldwide. Europeans are (widely) self-absorbed and couldn’t care less where they are. They’re not any better than Americans are.

  • Ron Gee

    Yea…we should ban anything that could damage the parks…like…cars, pavement, people.

    While we are at it, there is a possibility that a drone could fall from the sky and hurt someone. We should ban them because they are dangerous…same with other dangerous stuff that has hurt and killed people…like…cars, alcohol, knives, guns…

    Oh, those evil drones could take a picture of me, they should be banned! I guess cellphones with cameras have to go as well…long camera lenses…etc.

    Knee jerk reactions are always the most logical decisions.

  • Rob Elliott

    Having Grown up in Niagara Falls, Ontario… this isn’t true.. Europeans take the time to know where Canada is.

  • OtterMatt

    Right. Aside from the hyperbolic counter-rhetoric that stretches arguments into the absurd, I mean. Obviously that’s more logical.

  • OtterMatt

    Okay, that was worth a chuckle, I’ll admit. But I still hold my point.

  • Rich Maher

    Stick it to them, in the pocketbook and in some jail time. The word will get around

  • GPH Visual Artist

    …so is there a market for drone GPS locators?

  • Ron Gee

    What did I say that stretched an argument into the absurd? Don’t people do the most damage to parks? Litter, leaving the paths, exhaust fumes…

    Don’t cars,

  • Peter “Pots”

    I wish I could say something witty and cogent about this article, but I can’t. “We” are our own worst enemies. Soon all the irresponsible drone jerks will have them banned everywhere. Nobody wants to play by the rules anymore.

  • Terry_Clark

    Cause we all know American’s don’t smoke and never just toss their butts out the car window or anything. It must be the Europeans.

  • Rick Scheibner

    Well, I know of at least one that would need to withstand boiling temperatures and have a high sulfur tolerance.

  • Werchange

    Man oh man-You guys really are hell bent on perpetuating the stereotype of the ugly american, aren’t you?

  • OtterMatt

    Your use of the “OH, well let’s just ban EVERYTHING” trope is insulting, simplistic, caustic, and juvenile. You’re not making a suggestion, you’re simply being contrarian and unhelpful.
    You can’t advance an ideal that way.

  • Ron Gee

    Correct…I am being sarcastic, and pointing out the closed minded attitude many posters. I guess I could make it less juvenile by suggesting that if you violate the ban you get violated by Bubba….to paraphrase your earlier post.

  • Ben Bachman

    I own a production company out of Oregon. There are a lot of idiots from all over the world ruining it for everyone else. When I shoot in state parks I have to apply for permits, shown proof of insurance etc. I wish people could be more resposible, American or otherwise. Rediculous! !!

  • Geneva Thomas

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  • @JacksonCheese

    How exactly do you know what Europeans think?

  • kbb

    No, I failed to pick that up. Sorry… And yes, I believe there are plenty of slugs from the USA trashing other places. Please, may the Europeans so concerned show a similar severe attitude toward us trashing them.

  • coastx

    Poison the entire Gulf of Mexico and beyond with Corexit, mistake and misunderstanding. Lose your DRONE in the Yellowstone wilderness, LIFE IN PRISON!