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Ornithological Council urges Interior to re-think drone ban

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This news and analysis are provided by the Ornithological Council, a consortium supported by ornithological societies. Join or renew your membership in your ornithological society if you value the services these societies provide to you, including OrnithologyExchange and the Ornithological Council.

The Ornithological Council recently reached out to the Department of the Interior, asking it to reconsider its 2019 ban on the use of drones. The letter also asks the department to move forward with regulations regarding the use of drones for wildlife research. 

In late 2017, the Ornithological Council asked the Office of the Solicitor to advise the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, other federal agencies, and the state agencies that the use of drones for wildlife research is not subject to the Airborne Hunting Act. It also asked that if the Solicitor determines that the use of drones to study wildlife is subject to the AHA, then the Solicitor should address the need for federal permits because there are few, if any, state laws pertaining to drone use for wildlife research and monitoring. 

Then, in early 2018, the OC filed a petition for rulemaking, asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to issue permits for the use of drones to study wildlife. That petition for rulemaking proposed the changes necessary for the USFWS to issue permits under the AHA, since, if the Solicitor determines that the use of drones for wildlife research is covered by the AHA, permits would be needed 

Given that Interior has not yet taken action on that petition, this week’s letter asks them to move forward and also addresses the ban on the use of drones by Interior employees put in place in 2019. 

Read the OC’s letter here.

More background on the use of drones to research birds is available here.

The OC’s fact sheet on drones is available here.

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