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Drones: Harassing Wildlife, Annoying Humans

I 'get' that drones have their uses in appropriate situations. But like any tool, they are all too often abused, as I can personally attest.

Out in the wilderness, it is now a regular occurrence every trip to have some ahole flying a giant mosquito in or near a wilderness area. That sound is extremely irritating, destroying the sense of tranquility. No longer enjoying the peace and beauty anymore, the drone commands attention by its whining sound up to a mile away in quiet areas. Along with the sense of being survived, blinking lights at dusk, etc.

The “no drone zone” signs are there but people keep on doing it.

Drones will never be compatible with enjoyment of a wilderness area. Not for the operator and not for anyone else within a 1-mile radius. Degrading someone else’s experience of the wilderness with a drone (or other nuisance) is unacceptable.

Wildlife

Harassing wildlife is already crime and rightly so, but IMO, the statute should be updated to assume that operating a drone in a natural area is implicitly wildlife harassment. And it should not be limited to game animals. Numerous animals (and fish) see anything airborne as a mortal threat. It should also be a legal requirement to cease operation upon request by anyone.

The operator cannot know what effects are at play with respect to wildlife. Here is an extreme example of severe consequences:

Drone Crash Caused Thousands of Elegant Terns to Abandon Their Nests

It’s not just drones.

On my recent trip I saw numerous people taking dogs into wilderness areas, some overnighting with them in highly-sensitive areas*. As I understand it, this is actually illegal, being in a wilderness area adjacent to Yosemite National Park. But there is zero enforcement. Often, the dogs are running loose (not on leash), but whether that is legal or not is hard to track down and can vary by each wilderness area. Many birds at high altitude nest on the ground—connect the dots. Dogs crap wherever they feel the need, which could infect animals like coyotes and foxes as the mess. Barking is troublesome and can be heard miles away. And like drones, they can cause disruption to wildlife—dogs will be dogs, sniffing out and chasing things. I like dogs and I understand that their owners love hiking with them, but I don’t like dogs in wilderness areas especially off-leash.

* I’ve observed some of my favorite areas degrade more in the past 2-3 years than in the previous 2-3 decades. People camp in high-usage areas, trampling the ground cover, building fire pits in violation of multiple regulations, etc. But mainly, it’s just the steady trampling and crushing of plants (always step on rocks instead of plants whenever feasible).

Robert H writes:

I couldn’t agree more about the use of drones, Lloyd. On a photographic workshop to the Faroe Islands, a few years ago, the workshop organiser and leader decided to fly his drone when the workshop participants, who had each paid serious money to go on the trip, were taking photographs by the shore.

The beautiful sounds of the crashing waves and the calls of the seabirds were immediately drowned out by the sudden intrusion of the extremely loud, high pitched whine of the drone and "the moment” was shattered, making concentration and image making impossible, with the loss of immersion in every aspect of the scene.

Despite requests from the participants, he chose to fly his drone on several more occasions, until it crashed into a sea stack, causing huge elation among the participants…and relief that it wouldn’t again invade their privacy. In my humble opinion, they should be banned, unless used for genuine commercial purposes, such as surveying.

DIGLLOYD: stunningly bad judgment including the fact that the irritation generated by the drone should pay 'dividends' for that workshop organizer for a long time to come. Who would want to ever work with such an inconsiderate person again?

Louis F writes:

Could not agree more!!!

I recall when one of the first drones came out some years ago -the DJI. I was in the Arches NP in the Windows parking lot. As soon as I got out of the car I heard and then saw a kid maybe 7 years old flying a drone with his father nearby and then the kid crashed it on some plant species the Rangers were trying to protect as it cut off several new growth leaves. As I tried to control myself I reminded the father that drone flying in NPs was not allowed. He said he had no idea. The park brochures are clear on this matter as are all the signs posted around the NPs. Few give a d—n anymore as long as they get their selfish fun.

DIGLLOYD: great role model for kids—law breaking and lying. But anyone thinking that a National Park is a place to disengage from the world via electronics gadgets instead of engaging the natural world has incredibly bad judgment to begin with.

Anon writes:

I know of someone going on a 2 week photo workshop to Alaska soon and the instructor requested each participant to bring along a drone. There will be around 8 in total. They will take helicopters to remove locations and camp out 10 of the 14 days. To keep oneself within the flying weight limits participants will have to leave behind camera lenses to make up for their drones weight.

So can you imagine if you have planned the trip of your life to Alaska only to have this crowd buzzing their drones over your tranquility. It is still fairly wild out there in Alaska so I am sure some local who has had enough of drones breaking his or her solitude might use a drone as target practice since most walk around with a rifle in case of a wild animal attack. This might be the only way to give 'droners' a message. I would never go on a workshop encouraging drone activity and especially I would not pay over $10k to be on that workshop.

DIGLLOYD: with any luck, the novelty will wear off.


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