Know before you go: Drones in parks

31 Jan. 2024 3 min read

Ever considered using a drone in a national park? There’s rules and considerations you need to be aware of.

Picture this: You're in your favourite national park, seeking a moment of peace. You find the perfect spot, take a deep breath... and then, an annoying murmur. It's a drone, buzzing through the sky.

Here's the low down on why we're keen on minimising drone use in national parks.

Respecting wildlife and their home:

It's not just about the noise. Our parks are sanctuaries for wildlife. Birds, kangaroos, and other animals see these areas as safe spaces.

Recent research has shed light on the real impact drones have on wildlife.

Two major studies have revealed that flying drones around animals can result in behaviour changes and increased heart rates, which may indicate stress induced by the sound and visual stimulus of the drone. (1,2)

Marine mammals and drones:

Our beaches and oceans are home to marine mammals like dolphins, whales, and seals, and it's our job to ensure they're not disturbed by drones.

Under South Australia’s Marine Mammal Regulations, drones are prohibited from getting closer than 300 meters to any marine mammal. This rule is in place to minimise disturbance, allowing these animals to rest and conserve energy without the stress caused by buzzing drones overhead.

Whales and dolphins resting at the surface of the water, and seals and sea lions resting on beaches and rocky coasts, are particularly vulnerable to disturbance caused by a drone.

Seals and sea lions may have spent several days at sea hunting and these animals need to be able to rest and restore their energy. Drones may startle the animals, causing them to return to the water or leave the area for a quieter location.

The joy of peace and quiet

National parks offer peaceful experiences in nature. The natural sounds - a distant bird call, the rustle of leaves - are part of the unique experience. Drones, with their persistent hum, disrupt this peaceful atmosphere, taking away from the natural beauty and calm we all seek.

Seeking solitude

Visitors come for solitude, it can be an opportunity to disconnect from technology. Drones, often equipped with cameras, can intrude on this privacy, making people feel watched in a place where they expect to be free from surveillance.

Safety and regulations

It is an offence to fly drones in South Australia’s nation­al parks, con­ser­va­tion parks, game reserves, recre­ation parks or region­al reserves and marine park restrict­ed access zones with­out a per­mit.

Per­mits are con­sid­ered for sci­en­tif­ic research and com­mer­cial film­ing only.

For example, we may fly drones to shoot beautiful bird’s eye views of our state’s incredible parks, like Deep Creek National Park.

We do this to encourage people to visit and value parks and sometimes for important scientific research.

But unfortunately not everyone is permitted to fly drones in parks. When we fly drones, we do it responsibly. We always seek permission, choose times with fewer visitors, and fly under the watchful eye of a ranger to ensure our wildlife friends aren't disturbed.

Find out more about drones and other aircraft in parks.


(1) Mulero-Pazmany M et al (2017) Unmanned aircraft systems as a new source of disturbance for wildlife: A systematic review. Public Library of Science One (PlosONE), 12(6).

(2) Vas E et al (2015) Approaching birds with drones: first experiments and ethical guidelines. Biology Letters, vol. 11.




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