Illustration by Eugenia Loli In November 2018, New York photographer Timothy McGurr caught a nighttime flight to Billings, Montana, drove four hours to Yellowstone National Park, and slipped past the closed entrance gate in order to take—with the help of a drone—a stunning aerial shot of Grand Prismatic Spring at sunrise. He promptly posted the dramatic photo to his Instagram page, which has some 700,000 followers. There was just one problem: The recreational use of drones has been prohibited in almost all national parks since 2014. Violators can be fined $5,000 and sentenced to up to six months in jail. After a public outcry, McGurr took down the photo and eventually posted an apology of sorts, saying that he hadn’t known about the rule. As a high-profile photographer, McGurr was called out for his behavior, but plenty of other photographers, videographers, and drone enthusiasts routinely violate the rules. You don’t have to look hard to find a deep scroll of online footage taken in national parks and other restricted areas. The National Park Service has recorded more than 2,000 illegal drone incidents since 2015—with 40 of them occurring in Yellowstone last year. Once the provenance of the military, unmanned […]


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