Researchers from the University of Minnesota have proved that although drones are supposed to protect animals they are actually harmful for their wellbeing. In a study published in the journal Current Biology the scientists have conducted an experiment on black bears and have found out that their heart rates increase when a drone passes over their head.
The research team decided to conduct this study because the use of drones has increased lately since they are a convenient and cheaper way to analyze animals in their habitats. So scientists wanted to see how animals feel about this and what is their reaction to drones. The authors of the study wrote:
UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicle) can access remote or difficult terrain, collect large amounts of data for lower cost than traditional aerial methods, and facilitate observations of species that are wary of human presence. Currently, despite large regulatory hurdles, UAVs are being deployed by researchers and conservationists to monitor threats to biodiversity, collect frequent aerial imagery, estimate population abundance, and deter poaching.”
However researchers also remarked that UAV flights represent a new type of stress for animals. For the study they used GPS tracking devices in order to monitor black bears. The bears do not flee when they feel a drone flying over their hear so if they had not used cardiac biologger technology the scientists would not have been able to find out how black bears respond to UAV flights, the authors remarked.
The research team used four bears that were exposed to 18 UAV flights. One of the black bears was reported to have a heart rate increase of 400 percent: from 41 beats per minute to 162 beats. This is a shocking result. On long term this could lead to chronic stress for the black bears and other animals in general.
According to the study drones are used in monitoring endangered rhinoceros species: Ceratotherium simum and Diceros bicornis. The devices are used to deter poaching in South Africa. Drones are also used in the Arctic by oil and gas companies. And animal species over there are already affected by climate changes such as global warming.
The researchers concluded that further research is needed in order to find out the approximate distances at which animals feel threatened by drones and whether animals could adapt to them or new devices that are not as stressful should be developed.
Image Source: animalsdb.com