Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Ahead of the Curve?

 I was perusing Facebook yesterday (as I am wont to do when I need to see how much happier, wealthier and more fulfilling everyone else's lives are than my own...) when I came across an interesting link via Tovar Cerruli's FB feed. 

It was a link to Backcountry Hunters and Anglers  (a great group, BTW) position statement on using drones as hunting aids. I hope they don't mind me pasting that position statement here verbatim, because it's worth a read...

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.

Abso-freakin'-lutely. Kudos to BHA for taking a proactive stance on what is sure to be a damned scourge in the near future. Modesty should prevent me from mentioning this, but what the hell, modesty has never stopped me before, so I'll go ahead and point out that I had the same idea back in August...

From this F&S blog post.

The brilliant cyberpunk novelist William Gibson may, or may not (it's attributed to him, anyway) have once said, "the future is already here - it's just not evenly distributed yet." Why, you may ask, am I leading off this ostensibly hunting and/or fishing news blog post with a quote from a semi-obscure cult sci-fi novelist? Because the future of game camera technology is here - it's just not evenly distributed, nor is it quite tailored for hunting...yet.

From this story in the Boston Globe:

They are better known as stealthy killing machines to take out suspected terrorists with pinpoint accuracy. But drones are also being put to more benign use in skies across several continents to track endangered wildlife, spot poachers, and chart forest loss. Although it is still the ‘‘dawn of drone ecology,’’ as one innovator calls it, these unmanned aerial vehicles are skimming over Indonesia’s jungle canopy to photograph orangutans, protect rhinos in Nepal, and study invasive aquatic plants in Florida...Relatively cheap, portable, and earth-hugging, the drones fill a gap between satellite and manned aircraft imagery and on-the-ground observations, said Percival Franklin at the University of Florida, which has been developing such drones for more than a decade.

That's right. Drones. Forget those old-fashioned stationary game cameras. Personal scouting drones will be the next big thing for hunters. Maybe not now. Maybe not in five years. But at some point in the not-too-distant future, some enterprising company is going to design and market a personal drone geared toward hunters. Bank on it. According to the story, right now anyone can cobble together a viable home-made drone using off-the-shelf components for less than $2,000. And with advances in technology and miniaturization, the cost to do so will only continue to decrease.

I first got the idea of drones as scouting tools after listening to this NPR radio story a while back, and when I saw the story about using drones as conservation tool, I became convinced that it's just a matter of time before we see the first "hunting celebrity endorsed" scouting drone.
Thoughts? Reaction? Am I nuts? Bigger question: is it ethical? Would you use one if one existed?

A William Gibson reference and a shout-out to NPR in the same blog? Yeah, I'm cool that way...Anyway, it's gonna happen. And probably pretty damn soon. And the industry will trot out the same tired old excuses it trots out for every bad idea and questionable technology designed to make modern hunting even further removed from where and what it once was. Easier. Faster. More convenient. More efficient. More certain. And much, much worse.


  1. Another good post, Chad, also about to get passed along on my FB page...

  2. You said it before, I'm sayin' it again
    Modern life is Rubbish

    From stupid gizmos to tell you if the wind is blowing towards you, to this. Sigh.

    Have you read the Excellent 'Pump 6' by Paolo Bacigalupi? its set in a future where no one knows how to fix anything,
    great story, well written, I'm just not sure wether to describe it as SiFi or prophesy?