Drone etiquette for the outdoors

Photo courtesy of Chris Brookfield

by Gideon Lasco

As drones become more popular and affordable, expect them to appear in greater frequency in the mountains. While there is nothing wrong in making use of technology, however, we must also be mindful that using them can have negative consequences, especially in relation to other people on the trail. Here are some guidelines for using drones in the mountains:

1. Make sure you know how to operate the drone. For obvious reasons, you should know how to operate your drone before bringing it to the mountains. Bear in mind also the mountains have special conditions (i.e. strong winds, rain) that you must prepare for.

2. Avoid flying over people on the trail. Even if drones are fairly reliable, flying over people on the mountain can still put them in unnecessary risk, especially because weather conditions in the outdoors are not always predictable.

3. Do not use drones to take pictures of other people’s camping areas or private spaces without permission. Drone photography, just like any other photography, must be grounded on respect for the rights of other people, and taking photos/videos of them against their will is considered unethical. (See also:  The etiquette of hiking photography )

4. Be considerate of others when documenting scenic spots. Oftentimes, drone photography takes much longer than normal photography, and some drone photographers can seem inconsiderable when they are taking over a scenic spot while others are waiting. This situation can be avoided by selecting times and dates with less people, and ultimately giving way when there are people queuing  to take photos in the same spot.

5. Avoid disturbing the peace and the quiet. Drones are noisy, and can be a nuisance to other hikers especially when beyond a few minutes of use. Similar to #4, this can be avoided by using drones during times and dates when there aren’t other people. Remember that many people go to the mountains for peace and quiet and the last thing they want is to have to contend with the buzzing sound of drones.

Got any additional insights or comments? Let us know! This is a preliminary article and we will update it in the future.

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