Let’s face it: drones are a thing now. Their popularity keeps increasing and it doesn’t look like it is going to stop anytime soon. They are most commonly referred to as unmanned aerial vehicles or, in short, UAVs. UAVs are almost part of our day to day lives now: we use them in parks, our backyards and we are very sure that they will be used in the military from now on.
Drones have proven themselves useful for a large number of activities, this is why they are so popular after all. They serve as good entertainers, capturing images and wildlife moments, they are good for military defense and they can also serve scientific purposes. Yet, even though we are familiar with idea that nature and robots should never collide, we bring them together.
One very specific use of UAVs is getting closer to nature. Despite the amateurs, who collect videos and images with simple wildlife encounters, drones have also been used to help elephants in Africa and gather knowledge about wild humpback whales.
So this is where it gets interesting: we know what we think about drones and how we react to them, but has anybody ever wondered what animals think of them? Apparently a number researchers from the University of Minnesota gave it some thought and released a new study that encourages further investigation.
Mark Ditmer, the lead author of this study, declared that he hopes that more attention will be given to this matter. The main reason why this issue deserves our attention is because the drones might be putting the local fauna under a tremendous amount of stress. The study, published in the Current Biology journal, says that black bears are particularly stressed about the drones.
This stress is not exactly visible, however, Ditmer and his team put PGS collars with cardiac “biologgers” on four bears from the northwestern region in Minnesota. Then they flew UAVs over their heads in an attempt to investigate their reactions to it.
The scientists have discovered that whenever drones flew above the bears, their heart rates spiked, which can be a stress indicator. What is interesting, however, was that the bears’ hearts spiked, but they did not run away. They were standing still. This is also an important indicator the wildlife must be studied more in-depth than just looking at animals.
We expect that further research is going to be conducted after this experiment and it remains to be seen whether animals will continue to be stressed by drones, or if they will simply adjust to them in time.
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