As with most technology in general, the rate of its use or experimentation often outpaces regulations and ethical guidelines on such advances—from the discovery of gunpowder, to the internet, to cloning and stem cells.
Recreation is no stranger to this game of catch-up. Rules and laws prohibit hunting with automatic weapons, they disallow gas-powered motors on some waters as they do jet skis.
They even ban pitons from being hammered into rock faces by climbers in national parks, national wilderness areas and other federal preserves.
Enter drones into the recreational equation. Though laws on both the federal and state levels exist, they mostly pertain to the definition of drone most literally: “A remote-controlled, pilotless aircraft or missile,” as the Oxford English Dictionary puts it.
The PowerRay – World´s First Underwater Fishing Drone
Drones are now spinning lawmakers into a loop-to-loop, one that ends up swooping beneath our aquamarine world, where fishes and assorted sea life dwell.
Take one of the newest trade show-goers for instance, the PowerRay Underwater Robot, which plants an angler’s eyes and his lures or bait beneath the water through a underwater fishing drone that lends a view to living swimmers with fins up to 40 meters away.
It’s kind of like a submerged bobber with eyes, ones that show what they see through an angler’s smart device on terra firma.
For the novice angler simply wanting to bring home a catch, the submarine with eyes and hook seems promising, as long as the angler is not seeking the wariest of game fish.
It seems more promising, however, for fishing through the ice. Fish are more dormant in such cold water and therefore aren’t constantly cruising. Drones such as the Powerray can advise the angler on where to drill the hole for dropping a line at the very least.
A Step beyond Fish Finders
Decades ago, when fish finders hit the consumer market, they were considered by lawmakers and wildlife agencies as fair game for fisher folk. They, too, essentially provided fishers with eyes several fathoms below the surface of their favorite lakes and seas—for not only recreational anglers but commercial fishers as well.
Depth graphs and icons representing fish, along with outlines of bottom structure in 3D are now de rigueur in a skipper’s cabin or on the deck. Brands such as Humminbird, Lowrance, Garmin and Raymarine still flourish today via technology spawned by the government’s department of defense and its related industries so long ago.
However, fishing drones like the Powervision Technology Group’s Powerray dive fathoms beyond fish finders in regard to angling ethics, while promising that “recreational fishing will never be the same again”. Such phrases send shivers up the vests and waders of not only purists in sport fishing, but some neophytes as well.
After all, where is the sport in pressing a gadget or pushing a joystick to place bait eye-to-eye with a fish or school of fish?
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) already protects endangered and threatened ocean species from aerial drones through federal laws that continue to evolve as aerial drone technology advances, particularly those drones that can land on water. NMFS, however, remains bereft of any rules or guidelines for fishing drones that can scour the water beneath an angler’s feet, whether planted in a boat or on ice.
To some extent, fishing drones already leverage a foot in the door of the sport-fishing market, thanks to drones that float atop the water with cameras under their bellies that also scan the surface of water on a flight pattern as far as 1,000 meters away.
As a result, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) adopted statutes a few years ago as aerial drones started dotting the skies, but its jurisdiction ends where sky meets water. It will be up to states and the NMFS or other wildlife agencies to determine how far the virtually connected swimmers migrate into the consumer market.
Fishing Drone Regulations only in a Handful of States
Indeed the number of states ordaining laws on fishing drones can be counted on one hand: Michigan, Oregon and West Virginia. Meanwhile, North Dakota implies a ban on drone use for taking wild game by limiting the use of drones to surveillance, crime investigations and other uses by law enforcement when possessing a warrant.
The pace of regulations and laws can be witnessed by how many legislative sessions have passed among all 50 states in the U.S. since this technology burgeoned onto the consumer hunting and fishing market around 2015. Only the aforementioned four seem to have responded within this time frame. The overwhelming balance of states are either still figuring out what to do or waiting for the feds to guide them.
One thing is for certain: As with all new scientific advances as they apply to everyday (or weekend) use by John Q. Public, controversy and debate will swirl over the use of fishing drones.
Do they compromise the intent and purposes of the recreation or sport itself?
Do they reduce the numbers of already threatened species?
Do they endanger or encroach upon other humans enjoying the same recreational resource?
Will sport fishing or hunting be so results centered—valued only on what shows up in the game bag once the “sportsman” gets home—that the vast majority of consumers embracing such an attitude will sway lawmakers to maintain a hands-off approach in order appease voters?
The ethics portion of the debate seems to be swimming in murky waters at best. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Image credits: featured image © PowerVision Robot Inc.