Date: 2/5/19 2:32 pm
From: Wayne Hoffman <whoffman...>
Subject: Re: Use of drones in birding
Hi - 

Here is a start to answering  the ethics question:

I have never owned or operated a drone, but I have observed quite a bit of recreational drone activity - some which seemed objectionable to me, and some which seemed innocuous.  The organization I recently retired from contracted for drone flights and photography for extremely detailed wetland vegetation mapping. 

1.  Many public areas (NWRs, National Parks, etc.) ban use of drones.  Use in those areas would be unethical as well as unlawful.

2.  If a drone were affecting bird behavior, that could constitute harassment and be a violation of the ABA code of ethics.  Several years ago I observed a drone flush hundreds of Common Murres off a colony in Oregon - an obvious ethical violation and in that particular location also against the law.  On the other hand, I have seen other birds apparently oblivious to nearby drones.  In my mind a drone-operating birder should withdraw his/her drone as soon as he/she sees any evidence that it is frightening birds (or other wildlife).

3.  To me a significant question - and I do not have an answer - is whether it would be ethical to fly a drone over private land that is off limits to birders - e.g., marked No Trespassing?  A (hopefully hypothetical) example would be flying a drone off the roadside at Conetoe to get a better look at or photos of the putative Bewick's Swan.  I feel like this would be a violation of privacy, but I do not know what the recently adopted drone regulations say about observation and photography of posted private land.

Hope this furthers a constructive conversation.

Wayne Hoffman
On 2/5/2019 5:04:10 PM, Len Kopka <carolinabirds...> wrote:

I'll answer the easier of your 2 questions.
Yes, species identified with drone photography would qualify for life list purposes. It's no different than handheld photography on the ground.

I'll let others weigh in on your ethics question.

Len Kopka

On Feb 5, 2019, at 4:32 PM, Randy (via carolinabirds Mailing List) wrote:

Have not read much in the media concerning use of drones for birding, such as flyby snapshots and filming, or even just non-recorded video. This may have been well discussed here and in the literature and I have just simply missed it because I am a more casual birder than some of you more serious types.

My question to the list serve is what are the ethics concerning this, if any have indeed been established? Do species identified with this method qualify as having been observed for life list purposes?

These questions came to mind as I was reading a story on MSN about an osprey in Aruba flying off with an unidentified relatively large blue reef fish of some kind (possible Blue Tang?) with camera apparently looking "eyeball to eyeball' at the same level with the osprey. The story said the observer was shooting from the side of a highway with a hand-held camera, but it raised the question with me about using drones to find many more opportunities for observations. Before anyone jumps on me about this, I've never done it and don't plan to.

Randy Climpson
Sunset Beach, NC

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