This week two major associations representing tour operators in the Arctic and Antarctic respectively, have stated that they will not allow visitors to bring recreational Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) into the regions.
The International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO) reached an agreement at its 26 Annual Meeting to forbid the use of the devices for the 2015-16 season. Similarly, the Association of Cruise Operators (AECO) announced today that they will be banning UAVs as well.
The popularity of the flight and camera systems have grown dramatically in the last several years due to the fact that the devices are generally lightweight and inexpensive. Many tourists use the devices to capture photographs and videos of the surrounding landscapes. However, the operation of UAVs may lead to increased noise pollution, disturbances to wildlife and may interfere with scientific work.
AECO said in an online news release that, “Travelers to pristine Arctic areas enjoy unique nature and wildlife experiences, remoteness and silence. AECO finds that some of these values may be at risk if the general use of UAVs is allowed to continue to increase in the Arctic.”
Additionally, any systems weighing it at under 22kg (55lbs) do not require any type of operator certification. This has raised concerns regarding potential pilot errors resulting in lost vehicles or damage to protected areas.
The ban on UAV extends only to use for recreational purposes. IAATO further stated that its ban will be reviewed next year to allow for changes in UAV regulations as well as potential technological advances.