This coming after the 2020 South Ayrshire “No Drone Zone” campaign.
I don’t disagree with protecting the Osprey, not in the slightest… but this seems like overreach.
Let’s see what they’ve to say…
On Saturday June 25 at 14:30 the East Ayrshire Police Twitter account (https://twitter.com/AyrshireEPolice) tweeted the following:
“#WildlifeCrimeLiasonOfficer [sic] has been patrolling in Loch Doon as part of a weekend of action. Please respect our wildlife and raptors and do not fly drones in the area, this is a crime. #NoDroneZone”
(I have provided a screenshot of this tweet with this letter).
I entirely agree that all wildlife, particularly species under classification A1, should be respected and protected and I wouldn’t dream of flying my drones in a manner likely to cause them harm or distress. However, could you please expand on the “this is a crime” and “#NoDroneZone” portion of the above? On what legislation is this statement based?
The obvious candidate would be airspace restrictions. I would like to think that all responsible drone pilots check the airspace classifications in an area before flying. I have just done so for Loch Doon and, according to the CAA, there are no restrictions – either permanent or temporary via NOTAMs – in place which would prevent the legal operation of a drone. The closest such restriction is the FRZ for Prestwick Airport, some 23km to the north.
There are, clearly, other considerations when planning a safe and legal flight. Local byelaws, for example, can restrict the use of drones beyond airspace restrictions implemented through the CAA. The East Ayrshire Council website holds no information relating to the use of drones in the area, certainly nothing regarding any byelaws. If there is a byelaw in place prohibiting drone flights in the Loch Doon area, could you provide me with the details and, perhaps, advise where this is published so that I can be sure any flights I undertake are legal?
Another consideration when flying a drone, particularly with regards to Loch Doon, is, as the tweet above suggests, the protection of wildlife. It is a criminal offense under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to “intentionally or recklessly” disturb the nests of wild birds or to “intentionally or recklessly” harass any species in Schedule 1A. This is right and proper, and the crimes seen across Scotland against raptors, particularly with regards the management of shooting estates, are abhorrent. But is this the legislation with which the entirety of the Loch Doon area has been designated as a ‘#NoDroneZone’?
If that is the case, it would seem to be an interpretation of the law which many people would find to be an overreach. Ospreys have been known to hunt as far as 20km from their nest site, which means that a person could fly their drone within the radius of that hunting ground and still be 40km from the nearest Osprey. Are they, at that time, “intentionally or recklessly” harassing the bird? I would argue that they clearly are not, and if they are not then what crime has been committed?
As I say, I wouldn’t dream of causing distress to any animal, and am entirely in favour of measures to protect wildlife, including from drones. But the use of drones, and the legislation governing that use, is widely misunderstood by the general public. This confusion would not be helped if the police were seen to be misrepresenting that legislation.
Perhaps a better approach would be to implement an official restriction on the airspace via the CAA? This would inform the vast majority of drone pilots not to fly in the area without having to rely on them seeing a sign when they arrived or having stumbled upon a Tweet one Saturday morning.
I look forward to your reply on this matter.