Yellowstone cites more illegal drone pilots

2014-08-29T10:58:00Z 2014-08-29T11:41:03Z Yellowstone cites more illegal drone pilots The Billings Gazette
August 29, 2014 10:58 am

Drone flyers have been warned, now they'll be charged.

Since the well-publicized crash of a drone into a well-known Yellowstone National Park thermal pool in August, park officials have cited two other tourists for illegally flying the small aircraft.

Theodorus Van Vliet of the Netherlands crashed his unmanned aircraft into Grand Prismatic Spring on Aug. 2 and since then has been charged with several violations of federal law and if found guilty faces up to $5,000 in fines and/or six months in jail and/or five years on probation.

Last week, Donald Criswell of Molalla, Ore., was charged with violating the ban after he flew his unmanned aircraft over the crowded Midway Geyser Basin and close to bison on Aug. 19.

Earlier this week, charges were filed against a German national for a July 17 incident in which an unmanned aircraft crashed into Yellowstone Lake near the West Thumb Marina. Andreas Meissner faces several charges including violating the ban on operating unmanned aircraft, giving a false report to a government employee and commercial filming without a permit.

The park enacted an interim policy banning the operation of unmanned aircraft in June out of concern about public safety, wildlife disturbance and potential impacts to the visitor experience and park resources.

Whether the drone that fell into Grand Prismatic Spring is a danger to the thermal pool is unknown. Attempts to locate the device from the ground and a helicopter overflight have turned up possible areas in the pool where the unit may have come to rest. If its location can be confirmed, park staff will decide if there is a way to safely remove the device without damaging the thermal feature.

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