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Published on : 4th June 2018

Should We Fly Drones Near Wildlife?

Man controlling drone

Man controlling a drone by BLMOregon

 

So, the past few years have seen the popularity of recreational drones skyrocket and current predictions expect the industry to be worth around $13 billion by 2020, meaning our obsession with them is only going to continue. This is something that has prompted many countries to introduce new rules and regulations to help control the ways in which we use them.

Here is how the term "drones" has been trending since 2004

Here is how the term “drones” has been trending since 2004

 

For instance, here in the UK, to be able to monetise any footage collected whilst flying a drone, the pilot must hold a CAA Drone License or a PfCO in order to fly legally.

Also, the UK government will soon be making sure that anyone who owns a drone weighing more than 250 grams must register it online and take a compulsory safety test.

Sure, this will help educate people on how to safely operate these gizmos, but it probably won’t provide much (if any) guidance on how to operate them in front of wildlife.

Now there isn’t too much out there about the pros and cons of drones near wildlife. So, I thought it’d be a good discussion point. Without further ado, here are some of the arguments both for and against.

 

First up are some of the reasons why you shouldn’t be flying your drone around your nearest sheep field.

 

1. They are noisy

If ever you’ve been near one of these as they take off, I can tell you, they can be loud.

Until they reach about 100 meters or so away from your takeoff point you are able to constantly hear the sound of a 10-feet tall wasp hovering around you.

Though I’m no expert in this field, I think it’s safe to say that this sound would likely confuse and disturb some animals.

 

2. They can be scary

In fact, out of guilt, I feel as though I should come clean about my first-hand experience of terrifying my dog.

So, basically, my father-in-law-to-be recently bought himself a pricey new drone. As many would be, I was pretty excited to take it for a spin. So I launched it from my parent’s back garden.

Little did I know, my poor golden labrador: Millie saw (and heard) the thing startup and ran faster than I’ve ever seen her run. She darted straight for the house and wouldn’t come back outside for about an hour.

Needless to say, if it can evoke such fear in what is usually a very chilled out and mellow dog, I’m sure it could do the same to just about any other animal.

Mille, my golden labrador

Disclaimer: Millie is 100% fine, she was back to her normal self after we fed her some chicken.

3. They are dangerous

Despite them being irritating and perhaps a little scary to some animals, they are also a big hazard.

For instance, coming back to the point before. It’s a legal requirement for any commercial drone operator to have sufficient public liability insurance.

This is because if something goes wrong and the drone failed, it can do some serious damage to property, people and animals. This is damage that would have to be paid for one way or another.

All you need to do is Google “drone injuries” to see the damage that can be done to a person.

Injuries caused by the propellers are not child’s play. They are often large lacerations that require medical attention involving stitches.

Just think, if many people are flying their drones near wildlife, it will only take one mistake to cause serious harm to the animals.

And, if the animals in question are something small like say, a rabbit, the consequences could lead to more than just an injury.

 

1. They can be insightful

I think the new perspective that’s offered is what makes them so appealing.

We are now able to utilise these drones to aid in our conservation work.

Researchers in Australia claim that counting animals using a drone is much more accurate than traditional methods.

In a study, the researchers laid out 2,000 fake birds on a beach. One group of people used binoculars and telescopes to count the birds and a drone flew above and took photographs. The results proved the drone to be more accurate.

And, the photographs taken were fed into a computer algorithm where it was able to do so quickly.

2. They can be less disturbing and less invasive than people

Okay, now this is aside from the noise.

But, most animals won’t be disturbed by the drones. That is as long as they’re kept at a reasonable distance from them.

This means that instead of having to climb a tree to check on a rare bird’s nest. We can now just send a little drone up there to check for us.

We can also capture events that we’ve never been able to capture before.

Let’s say there’s a wild rhino a couple hundred of meters away giving birth.

Instead of sending out anyone to check on the progress or to record the event, we can again, just send the drone out.

 

3. Marine animals would be safe

Humpback whale breaches the surface

When piloted properly, not only can we capture absolutely stunning footage.

But we can also gain a new perspective on wild animals when they’re filmed from a birds-eye-view.

Some animals that may be best suited to this sort of photography are marine animals. Whales, dolphins, sharks and turtles won’t be disturbed by the noise coming from the aircraft.

And, if the drone fell from the sky. I’m sure that:

  1. The water would malfunction it to the point the propellors can’t harm the animals.
  2. If the propellors did manage to hit the animal, the rotation would be slowed down drastically and the thick skins of the animal would likely resist any damage.

 

Conclusion

Like with all things, there are positives and negatives to be drawn from using drones near wildlife.

I think that as long as the necessary precautions are taken and they’re not disturbing the animals, drones can and perhaps should be used near wildlife.

Personally, I think the footage they gather can be extremely valuable. Both for science and viewing pleasure.

They can really inspire and make you appreciate the beauty of nature.

But, I suppose it may only take one irresponsible pilot to change my mind.

Thanks for reading!

I’d love to know what your opinions. Do you think it’s a simple yes/no answer or is it a little more complex?

Let me know below!

 

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