The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) is cautioning all potential travelers to Antarctica who plan to fly a drone to check with their travel agent or tour operator before packing their devices.
The association says there are still many questions to be answered about operating unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in a safe and environmentally responsible way in Antarctica.
Within the Antarctic Treaty System – a global partnership that designates the entire continent as a natural reserve – all human activities, whether for science or tourism, have to go through an annual environmental impact assessment by a relevant competent authority/government agency.
Planned activities that meet all relevant safety and environmental criteria are authorized, and a permit is granted. Using a UAV is considered a specific activity, so it has to be included in overall permit applications for assessment, according to IAATO.
“Antarctica is still pristine with wildlife and landscapes that show little evidence of impact from direct human activity,” says Kim Crosbie, executive director of the association. “To visit and operate in an environment like this comes with a responsibility to do so carefully and with minimal disturbance.
“The use of UAVs is in a state of development, and until more information is available, IAATO member operators and competent authorities are taking a precautionary approach when it comes to their operation,” Crosbie continues. “The idea is to devise a pragmatic policy framework that will allow safe and environmentally responsible use under controlled circumstances.”
IAATO says it has been requested, on a consultancy basis, to present draft UAV guidelines and experiences at the next annual Antarctic Treaty Consultancy Meeting in Bulgaria in June 2015.
Founded in 1991, IAATO is a 117-member organization that advocates, promotes and
practices safe and environmentally responsible private-sector travel to the Antarctic.