How not to use a drone: kids scare of nesting eagles in Canada

Kids; this is not how you use a drone.

Because incidents like this one are why some aviation authorities still look at drone technology with suspicious eyes.

Reports from the town of Kelowna in British Columbia, Canada, have it that the province’s Conservation Officer Service has launched an investigation after a group of young people were seen flying a drone near a pair of nesting bald eagles on Knox Mountain last Friday.

Knox Mountain Park is a natural park and recreation area located in Kelowna, British Columbia, north of the city’s core. It is one of the most popular attractions for tourists visiting Okanagan Valley.

The incident occurred at about seven in the evening in the Herbert Heights area of the park, on the west side of Knox.

“A group of six or seven youth were observed operating a drone chasing and harassing a pair of nesting bald eagles,” Conservation officer Ken Owens said in a statement.

“The bald eagles in this nesting area were extremely agitated by the proximity of the drone chasing them.”

Owens said the incident was a violation of B.C.’s Wildlife Act, which prohibits harassing wildlife with the use of a motor vehicle, aircraft, boat or other mechanical device. He added that such a violation can carry a maximum $100,000 fine and up to a year in jail.

“Wildlife are sensitive to disturbance, especially at certain times of the year — their mating seasons or when newborns are around,” Owens said. “The last thing they need is to be harassed by a drone.”

Perhaps the offending kids need to be reminded that the last time an eagle decided to take a drone on, it ended in the machine spending a night upside down in the mud under a lot of water in Lake Michigan in Canada’s neighbour, the USA.

This drone was actually on a legal mission, mapping out the scale of erosion along the Lake Michigan shoreline, under the watchful control of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) environment quality analyst and drone pilot Hunter King, when a bald eagle suddenly pounced, sending the drone hurtling to the bottom of the lake after a brief scuffle.

There are a lot of good ways in which drone technology can be applied to wildlife, like saving endangered species from poachers, like authorities at Kruger National Park in South Africa once did; or laying out flappers along power cables so birds will know to steer clear of them when flying in poor light conditions; or saving a vulture chick whose mother did not survive a power cable collision from starvation in Israel.

Harassing and trying to scare bald eagles – or any other animal in that case – is the very opposite of the good ways.

If you wish to know more about the right drones for wildlife conservation, Robert Miller – who is building a perfect drone for the job – will be speaking at the Drones and Unmanned Aviation Conference this June.

Do yourself a favour and register.


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