Can we talk about drones for a minute?
Not FAA regulations and local laws, because those are debated elsewhere–more knowledgeably and objectively than I might. Let’s talk, instead, about the ways in which these sky cameras, built for fun, might negatively affect wildlife habitats and the places we’ve come to know as our private sanctuaries. Not a high-level discussion, but an up-close-and-personal, eyewitness view.
Imagine that you’re enjoying a morning walk on the beach, toes digging into sand, as gentle waves splash ashore.
Now that the tourists have gone home, the beaches are nearly empty. But look! There’s a trio of seals to keep you company–further out to sea, sunning themselves on Goff Cove Island.
They’ve come to know and trust you, because you approach them with a quiet reverence…
…zooming in with your camera but never encroaching on their comfort zone.
They snooze while you’re scrambling over the rocks, investigating the tide pools and snapping photos–ever watchful, but never fearful. You’re buddies now, and they even talk to you.
“What do you see out there?” a newcomer asks.
You point, and then marvel together at their sleek beauty.
A bull seal reveals itself, watches you watching him. The potential for danger is always near, for both of you. But instinct is a powerful thing. You know you are safe, and so does he.
You pan your camera across the ocean, sun-kissed waves to sandy shore. There is no curating to be done here. It’s their habitat, and you are the guest.
The seals doze, perk up now and again, no doubt attuned to sounds your human ears aren’t sensitive enough to hear.
And then, near the very end of your videotaping session, you hear a menacing whine.
The seals are on heightened alert, now.
A strange beast crests the rocks…bobbing, whirring, careening back and forth in unpredictable patterns. Then it drops, dozens of feet, at high velocity.
The herd panics. The bull seal gives a signal, and they dive into the water, all four of them, and vanish.
Maybe it’s a stretch to think that drones will eventually stake their claim on everything, within and beyond a human’s reach. Maybe it’s wrong to extrapolate, from my own experience, that we’re edging toward a world in which curiosity outstrips compassion, privacy goes by the wayside, and convenience trumps all. But there’s no doubt in my mind that we should set some ground rules while we can.
UPDATE: This encounter inspired me to take action–one voice of many, writing letters & making calls. In response to community concerns, Laguna Beach passed into law an ordinance banning drones over city parks, near beaches, and over government buildings! As of 13 July, 2017, “Drone-flying is still allowed over private property and over the ocean, but harassment of marine wildlife will not be tolerated,” Laguna Beach Police Chief Farinella said.