Drone-flying tourist banned for life from South Africa's Kruger National Park

Most drone pilots -- even newbies -- know that flying drones in national parks is forbidden. It's that way in the United States, and starting in 2014, in the vast Kruger National Park in South Africa. These laws are put into place to protect the often unique wildlife, flora, and geological formations that qualified these places as national parks in the first place. Recently, an ignorant drone pilot found himself banned for life from ever visiting Kruger National Park again.

 Lions in Kruger National Park. Copyright © 2009, Steven Sande. All rights reserved. 

Lions in Kruger National Park. Copyright © 2009, Steven Sande. All rights reserved. 

Other visitors to the national park took photos of the tourist as he left his car with the drone to "capture some wildlife imagery", then showed the photos to the police and park officials. Both South African police and Kruger National Park authorities were waiting for the car when it passed through the park's Phalaborwa Gate, and stopped and searched the vehicle.

Since authorities did not catch the man in the act of flying his drone in the park, he was "just" given a lifetime ban from ever visiting the park again. Had he been caught in the act, he would have been arrested on the spot and his drone seized. 

"He explained that he did not go through his permit rules and was not aware of the ban on drones inside the park," said Kruger employee Ike Phaalah, who felt it necessary to warn other tourists who may try to fly drones in the park. “The flying of drones is illegal in national parks, as they are legislated protected areas with restricted airspace and therefore a no-fly zone for all unauthorized aircraft systems.”

Depending on the model of drone, many of the apps or controllers used to fly the aircraft will notify pilots if they are in a no-fly zone like a national park. Apparently, this tourist chose to ignore the warning in order to try to get some shots of the local wildlife.