Drone photography in Antarctica: Rules and Regulations

Aurora Expeditions has a strict no drones policy on board our expeditions.
 

In remote wilderness areas visited on our voyages, the use of drones has a negative effect on local wildlife. Drones that malfunction can crash and pollute the pristine environment, injure wildlife, may not be retrieved and could possibly be consumed by and harm/injure wildlife.  Please do not bring drones with you on an Aurora Expeditions voyage. Read on to learn more about drone restrictions in Antarctica, and read IAATO's policy HERE (ATCM XXX1X - Santiago, Chile 2016 / IP120 IAATO UAV policy update). 


Protecting the pristine Antarctic environment

Under the Antarctic Treaty System, the entire continent is formally designated as a 'natural reserve', devoted to peace and science", as stated by the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO). This means that any activity that has the potential to impact the current state of the environment will be subject to strict parameters. This is exactly why the issue of drones and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) in Antarctica is such a hot topic.

Aurora Expeditions are required to submit an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) in order to obtain its operating permit for Antarctica. In said EIA, Aurora Expeditions commits that any activities that are performed in Antarctica will have "less than a minor or transitory impact on the environment."

So, can I use my drone in Antarctica?

Aurora Expeditions' Environmental Impact Assessment does not include the usage of drones. Furthermore, under the Antarctic Treaty System and IAATO, all recreational drone or UAV use is not allowed – highlighting the value that more than 100 countries put on protecting this part of the world. If you have a drone at home and fly it around the park, beach or other expansive areas for personal use, you are unable to bring it along on the adventure for recreational use.

Will recreational drones ever be allowed in Antarctica?

Like all pieces of new technology, there is usually a period of time where governments need to assess what types of rules and regulations are required. When drones first came onto the market, there were next to no laws at all and this caused a number of privacy and safety concerns.

Naturally, the next step was to establish strong regulations so the risks could be properly understood. This is exactly what is happening in Antarctica at the moment, with the prospect of recreational drones and UAVs under review in the coming months.

IAATO noted that it was working closely with more than 100 Treaty Parties, with further discussions planned for the Antarctic Treaty Consultancy Meeting. The organisation admitted that "the idea is not to ban UAVs outright, but to devise a pragmatic policy framework that will allow safe and environmentally responsible use under controlled circumstances."

As such, there is a possibility that with Aurora Expeditions in the future, you will be able to bring your drone and set it up to fly across the continent. For now, it might be best to stick to the local park to practice your flying skills.

Antarctica is truly one of the world's most pristine environments, and these regulations are put in place to help protect it and it's wildlife for our future generations.

What about flying drones in other destinations?

There are no drones or UAVs allowed in South Georgia, Greenland or Svalbard. In a nutshell, all recreational use of drones in Antarctica and the Arctic is banned.

The whole trip was extremely professional, friendly responsive staff, great organisation, a lifetime experience that will not be forgotten.
J. Boehm, South Georgia & Antarctic Odyssey, 2016
It was great to have plenty of time (2-3 hours) in which to explore the islands and their wildlife inhabitants. Voyage staff were excellent, very helpful and knowledgeable in their areas of expertise. I will be definitely booking another trip with Aurora in the future!
Chrissy Freestone, Australia - New Year in Antarctica, 2015
Expedition staff were all very approachable and helpful. They were always enthusiastic about the voyage and activities available and ready to impart their knowledge in all areas.
Mary Fathers - Spirit of Antarctica, 2015
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