This season has seen a rise in the number of guests wishing to use pilotless drone type equipment. We had a couple of requests from clients on whether things such as drones are permitted in conservation areas. To put this in perspective we have sighted some reputable companies in policies and views on such equipment.
Grant Woodrow, MD Wilderness Safaris Botswana says:
Frequent modern advances in photographic technology are a boon for the safari and ecotourism industry. Spectacular, dramatic, unusual and evocative wildlife images help promote awareness of, and travel to, the African continent and to remote wildlife areas. This travel and awareness in turn helps promote and fund the conservation of these areas.
Nevertheless it is occasionally the case – usually once the technology moves beyond the pioneer/s and into the mainstream – which certain advances are potentially in conflict with our ethics and the well-being of the wildlife that they seek to capture on film.
Advances in digital SLR cameras and their ability to film in High Definition, high performance and affordably priced unmanned aerial vehicles (aka drones or quadcopters), very effective gimbals allowing stable footage and the rising popularity of safari and wildlife photography have all necessitated the adoption of a policy in this regard.
We believe that so-called drones and the photographic opportunities that they allow can be beneficial for all the above reasons. We also believe however, that the ethics around utilisation of these devices are paramount, and that unethical use can and has led to unacceptable levels of disturbance of wildlife and other elements in our areas.
Operated irresponsibly and unethically drones can:
1. Disturb wildlife and conflict with our ethics in this regard.
2. Impact on the experience of other guests.
3. Produce images and video that are widely published and set a bad precedent and example for amateur and aspirant wildlife photographers.
In addition, because of security concerns around rhino poaching, and safety concerns because of inadequate civil aviation laws, the use of unmanned aerial vehicles is illegal in some of the areas we operate.
As leaders in the African ecotourism industry, we are often looked to in terms of ethics and operational principles. We take this responsibility seriously and in the case of unmanned aerial vehicles being used for wildlife photography, we have decided to prohibit this activity on our concessions in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. This extends to terrestrial UAVs, as well as to aerial UAVs, so-called drones. We apply this policy to our own staff, to our guests and even professional photographers.
Exceptions to this are possible in locations where wildlife and guests will not be disturbed and where landscape photography is the aim (for example in remote areas of the Kulala Wilderness Reserve), and of course where such activity is permitted by law.
Letaka Safaris Botswana says:
Guests are not allowed to bring or use drones on our safaris, the impact of allowing guests to do this would be potentially catastrophic.
We do allow film crews with press accreditations from a reputable networks and with the necessary filming permits to use them but even this is restricted to sightings or areas where there are no other guests or vehicles.
Walter Smith, Marketing Director, Desert & Delta Safaris (A Subsidiary Of Chobe Holdings Limited) says:
As a Botswana owned and based company, Desert & Delta Safaris respect the privilege we have to operate in the areas we do, in doing so, we base all our policies on the laws of the country.
Considering drone filming/ photography, these are as follows:
To anyone wanting to bring drones into Botswana:
1. For professional photography.
Since about 2010, every film permit has stated:
Filmers / Photographers / Researchers flying their own air craft should follow the Civil Aviation Authority of Botswana (CAAB) regulations.
Botswana is part of ICAO, and the working group on UAV’s states:
Convention on International Civil Aviation – Article 8 – Pilotless aircraft
No aircraft capable of being flown without a pilot shall be flown without a pilot over the territory of a contracting State without special authorization by that State and in accordance with the terms of such authorization. Each contracting State undertakes to insure that the flight of such aircraft without a pilot in regions open to civil aircraft shall be so controlled as to obviate danger to civil aircraft.
There was a time when there were select permissions granted for drone filming (however, as far as we are aware, these permissions were only granted to a few locally based film production companies).
However when South Africa clamped down on the use of pilotless aircraft, so did Botswana.
We are informed that it is now highly illegal to fly Drones in Botswana – more particularly within the protected wildlife areas and BDF have been instructed to shoot them down if seen.
Apart from the Botswana laws governing the use of UAV’s, as a company, we need to take into consideration the overall experience offered to and catered to all of our guests. We believe that impact on this experience, not to mention the disturbance to the wildlife populations, through the use of drones, if not controlled, will be catastrophic.
2. For individual photographers and amateur photography.
Our policy on drone flying within the areas that we operate in will mirror those of the Botswana Government. Desert & Delta Safaris will not assist or encourage guests to bring their own drones when travelling to our destinations.
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