August 25, 2013
Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems (commonly called “drones”) are increasingly important in the military and have high potential to contribute to the fields of wildlife biology, search-and-rescue, agriculture and many other applications. However, in private hands there is small but growing interest in using these highly sophisticated remote-controlled aircraft to scout, monitor and stalk big game. BHA believes this technology represents a widespread opportunity for abuse, and if not regulated poses a significant threat to fair chase hunting and fair distribution of hunting opportunity.
According to the UAVs Industry Association: While military operations continue to dominate current UAS applications the future will see increasing use of UAVs in parapublic and civil roles. It is important for the growth of the industry that paths to the civil market are opened as early as possible and UAVS takes very seriously the challenges of operating UAVs in the civil environment. According to an article in the New York Times, one company sells 7,000 civilian UAVs a year, more than the US military drone fleet. As one industry promoter predicted, “the sky is going to be black with these things.”
A YouTube video posted January 2013, depicts a Norwegian man stalking a moose with a remote controlled UAVs. The moose seemed perplexed, as it watched the machine hover above and monitor its every move.
It takes little imagination to visualize how an unscrupulous hunter or outfitter might use these powerful machines to scour a mountain range looking for a bighorn ram or harass a pronghorn herd across the distant prairie.
While Backcountry Hunters & Anglers acknowledges the potential use of UAVS for purposes of science and game surveys, we feel strongly that state wildlife departments should curtail their use to protect the principles of fair chase and fair opportunity. While government cannot “legislate morality,” we have a responsibility to make sure that hunting remains a primitive pursuit involving woodcraft and skill, not merely exploiting technology.
Accordingly, BHA support state chapters to work with their respective state wildlife authorities to ban the use of UAVs to aid or assist in hunting before this technology becomes established.