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Tourist Crashes Drone Into National Treasure     Photo: Sam Beebe/flickr

Drone Crashes into Yellowstone Spring

UAS in hot water

In June, the National Park Service banned the use of drones in all national parks, following an initial ban in Yosemite. Despite such restrictions, there are still those who cannot resist the urge to send their unmanned aircraft into national park airspace, whether to get that once-in-a-lifetime shot of the kind of natural beauty that haunts their dreams—or just to be a jerk.

Decide for yourself which category fits the visitor to Yellowstone National Park who crashed his drone into the Grand Prismatic Spring last Saturday. Hot spring buffs will know that the Grand Prismatic is the largest hot spring in the United States and the third largest in the world.

Park spokesperson Al Nash addressed concerns that the downed aircraft, which sank into the 370-foot-wide and 121-foot-deep "boiling lake," could potentially damage the famous natural landmark.

"What we have to determine is whether the presence of this radio-controlled recreational aircraft poses a threat to that unique resource," Nash said.

"We are trying to determine if we can locate it, and if we locate it, if we'll be able to remove it. Our concern is about any potential impacts to the iconic Yellowstone thermal feature."

The tourist who crashed his drone allegedly approached a park employee about the possibility of getting his aircraft back. The man was let go without a citation, and the park employee initially didn't report the incident.

"I don't think the [park employee] who they spoke with realized that drones couldn't be flown in the park or the implications of what they were being told," Amy Bartlett, spokesperson for Yellowstone National Park, told CNN.

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Usually, researchers there are busy studying weather and pollution in relation to the upper atmosphere, but all science at the station has stopped. BAS spokesperson Linda Capper told Mashable that although power isn't running at full capacity, all residents of Halley Station are in good health, including the doctor on staff. 

Because this happened in the dead of the Antarctic winter, with temperatures nearing what researchers think are record lows, evacuating the staff just isn't possible for at least a few months. Still, the staff expressed good spirits while everyone works to get things in order. 

As Capper said, "It's looking good, but it's still quite early days." Let's hope things keep warming up at the station. If you want to follow how the team is doing firsthand, an engineer (@AntAntarctic) and doctor (@AntarcticDoc) working at the station have been tweeting out their experiences (and some cricket news—hopefully a sign that things aren't too dire).

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