Flying RC drones is hugely fun, but also endlessly stressful: at any time you’re liable to chop someone’s hand open, or crash your $1000 toy into a power line. As it turns out, humans aren’t the only ones who get stressed by nearby UAVs.

According to research published in Current Biology, black bears have a very real, measurable reaction to the presence of nearby drones. By examining GPS and heart-rate data, researchers found that flying small quadcopter aircraft over bears — as part of a scientific study, not just a general middle finger to nature — caused specific behaviour patterns and an elevated heart rate.

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It’s not minor changes, either: one bear elevated her heart rate by 400 percent, from 41 to 162 beats per minute. In other words, the bears didn’t much like having their personal space invaded by a buzzing, flashing aircraft.

That’s not much of a surprise, but it is a minor problem — quadrotor aircraft, being small, nimble, and cheap, are actually a fantastic way of studying ecosystems. But if that observation causes behavioral changes in the very things being studied, it’s suddenly a lot less useful.

[Current Biology via The Register]


Contact the author at chris@gizmodo.com.