Australian book weighs the ethics of evolving research techniques, including the downsides of drones and selfies with animals
When Adelaide psychologist Bradley Smith scoured the internet for guidance on using drones for wildlife research, he found nothing. So he tweeted ecologists he knew, asking if there was “some kind of central resource”.
Superficially, we might think that drones are a way to cheaply and safely reach remote locations, they are a way to collect data about animals safely and without potential harm to anybody, but this Australian work and this Times Higher Education suggest that such assumptions are wrong. Drones are causing harm and institutions that have ethics guidelines on their correct use.
Drones offer scope for non-invasive research, but unintended consequences abound. They are often targeted by birds of prey, potentially exposing raptors to injury. And a 2015 study found that bears’ heart rates spiked dramatically when drones flew overhead.
Dr Smith, a member of CQU’s animal ethics committee, had been asked to develop standard operating procedures for considering wildlife when using drones. Instead, he assembled an editorial team and spent three years compiling a comprehensive guide on the ethics and practicalities of wildlife research in Australia.