1 Tahrcountry Musings: Best practice for minimizing drone disturbance to wildlife in biological field research

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Best practice for minimizing drone disturbance to wildlife in biological field research

 Researchers Jarrod C. Hodgson and Lian Pin Koh writing in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on May 23 say that steps should be taken to ensure that UAV operations are not causing undue stress to animals.
Hodgson and Koh offer the following recommendations:
  1. In cases where the evidence is lacking, UAV users should consult with appropriate experts and proceed with an abundance of caution. The researchers also say that further study on the impact of UAVs is needed.
  2. UAV users should seek approval when appropriate and explain the anticipated benefit of using UAV technology in their situation.
  3. Suitably trained UAV operators should comply with all relevant civil aviation rules, which may include restrictions on flying beyond visual line of sight, above a defined altitude, at night, and near people or in the vicinity of important infrastructure and prohibited areas.
  4. UAVs should be chosen or adapted to minimize disruption, for example, by disguising UAVs as other non-threatening animals.
  5. UAVs should be launched and recovered from a distance, and a reasonable distance from animals should be maintained at all times during UAV flights.
  6. Behavioral and physiological stress responses should be measured whenever possible, and UAV flights should be aborted if excessive disturbance is found.
  7. UAV specifications and flight practices should be detailed accurately and shared in full in published studies, along with any animal responses, accidents, or incidents.

The researchers signs off saying “Promoting the awareness, development and uptake of a code of best practice in the use of UAVs will improve their suitability as a low impact ecological survey tool. We consider this code to be a first and guiding step in the development of species-specific protocols that mitigate or alleviate potential UAV disturbance to wildlife.”

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