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IAATO imposes new restrictions on commercial drones in Antarctica

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The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators rolled out restrictions on commercial drone use in Antarctica. The recreational use of remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) is already banned in coastal areas of the White Continent.

Overrides any personal authorization

Recently IAATO members agreed that for the 2019/20 season, commercial flights are not allowed in coastal areas unless the activity is covered by the IAATO operator’s permit/authorization and/or the RPAS pilot has approval from the IAATO operator they're traveling with, regardless of any personal authorization they may have.

'The Antarctic Treaty Parties, and IAATO members, are concerned about the use of RPAS in Antarctica; while there are situations where flying them may be of value with regards to science, ice reconnaissance for vessel navigation and education, including documentary film making, there are many questions still to be answered in terms of their potential impact on the environment,' said IAATO's Lisa Kelley, interim co-executive director - operations and external relations.

Drone flights come with risks

'IAATO has worked for 28 years advocating and promoting safe and environmentally responsible tourism in Antarctica and our core mission is to offer visitors an enriching and educational expedition, while only having a minor or transitory impact,' Kelley continued. 'Drone flights in Antarctica come with risks, from lower temperatures making battery life difficult to gauge to how these devices may be inadvertently affecting wildlife behavior.'

These new restrictions are one of a raft of measures IAATO voted in at its annual meeting in Cape Town that are aimed at living up to the association's responsible tourism mission.

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