A Proposed Research Agenda on Professional and Recreational Drone Use in National Forests and National Parks


  • Jennifer M. Thomsen
  • Jennifer Fowler Autonomous Aerial Systems Office University of Montana
  • Thomas Lang University of Montana Department of Society and Conservation




drone, public land, management, policy


Recreational drone use has increased in popularity over the past decade. Public lands offer additional opportunities for drone use as unique monitoring tools as well as videography to enhance visitor experiences. However, there are many concerns regarding privacy and impacts to resources and experiences. While drone technology has advanced rapidly, research on the challenges, opportunities, and management strategies have been limited leading to inconsistent policies across diverse public land settings. We propose a research agenda to guide future research and management related to drone use. There are social, ecological, and managerial considerations that are interrelated and operate across scales from the local sites to national policy. These scales are disjointed, creating challenges for policy development with a lack of research to inform decisions. It is our hope that this study stimulates discussion that is timely and relevant and can inform multi-scalar and multidisciplinary research on recreational drone use on public lands. Subscribe to JPRA