AS DRONES BECOME SMALLER,  cheaper and easier to operate, animals increasingly must contend with airborne paparazzi.

Mr.Schmidt, a 31 year-old software developer, posted a drone's eye-video of some encounters on the YouTube. It has been viewed  5 million times. And it is hardly the only evidence of conflict between animals and unmanned aerial vehicles.

At a recent conference, Richard Swayze of Federal Aviation Administration estimated that  one million drones  will be sold in the United States this Christmas. Yet the agency has still not released official regulations for commercial use of drones.

As for recreational users, it strongly encourages them to follow its basic safety guidelines, which hardly mention animals.

Recreational drone users have driven lounging seals and their pups into the ocean and frightened otters into diving at Merro Bay, said Scott Kathey, the federal regulator coordinator  of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary in California.

In June last year, the National Park Service prohibited the use of unmanned serial vehicles in its parks, in part because drones had disturbed bighorn sheep and other animals.

Such interactions have alarmed wildlife biologists   -even as more of them are turning to drones to study animals. The devices can be safer, more nimble, less expensive and even less disruptive than, say, a helicopter, jeep or boat. ''The last thing a scientist wants to do is alter the animal's natural behaviour,'' Mr. Kathey said. They just want to be a fly on the wall.'' 

Sometimes it works, sometimes not. Drones have helped scientists unobtrusively survey penguins, leopard seals, sandhill cranes and dugongs. In Patagonia, scientists are flying drones through the 12-foot tall exhalations of Whales, scooping up their mucus in order to monitor their health.

And the Kenya Wildlife Service has found that surveillance drones may reduce poaching of elephants and rhinos.

But the small size and agility of drones   -and their mosquito like invasiveness -can be uniquely irksome, even dangerous, to wildlife. Scientists have only just began to examine the risks and benefits in detail, but already it is clear that much depends on the species and how the drones are deployed.

Last year, David Gremillet, an ecologist at the National Center for Scientific Research in France, and a team of colleagues repeatedly flew Phantom quadcopters near wild mallards loafing on a pond in the Zoo du Lunaret in Montpellier. 

Later, the team aimed the drones towards flamingos and common greenshanks wading in a brackish lagoon near the Rhone river delta.

The researchers varied the speed and incoming angle of the drone during 204 approach flights, watching the birds through binoculars. Eighty percent of the time, the scientists got a drone within 4 meters, or about 13 feet, of the birds without any observable reaction.

Nearly every time a drone descended vertically, however, the birds moved away or took flight, probably because that angle evoked the approach of a raptor.

''We clearly see a potential for research, but only if you assess the risk to wildlife first,'' Dr. Gremillet said. ''Each species will have its own reaction.

''Territorial birds such as hawks, crows and sea gulls are likely to assault drones, he noted. But the devices could be perfect for surreptitiously observing waterfowl from 150 feet or higher.

Nevertheless, Dr. Gremillet and his co-authors cautioned in their study that even when animals show  no overt reaction to drones, ''that does not mean that the drone presence was not stressful for the animals.''  To be certain, one would have to measure a creature's inner physiology.

''There are so many videos on the Internet where you see drones colliding with birds,'' Dr. Gremillet said. ''Some people find it funny. I don't. My opinion is that if everyone starts to use drones, it will be a huge mess.''

With respectful dedication to the Students, Professors and Teachers of the world. See Ya all on !WOW!  -the World Students Society:

''' A Drone's Eye View '''

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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