Drones are a modern alternative to manned aircraft for aerial surveys, however approaching wildlife with drones may still cause disturbance. Understanding the factors influencing animal responses to drone flights is fundamental for informing guidance on lowest-impact flight practices. We reviewed scientific literature on drone flights conducted to approach wildlife and collated and quantified references to factors that should be considered in the development of guidelines and policies. The most referenced controllable factors were approach distance, noise emissions and airspeed. Other frequently referenced controllable factors included drone type, take-off distance, flight pattern, pilot experience and competence, whether consecutive flights were conducted and flight duration. The most referenced environmental factors were animal taxa, biological state of animals and ambient noise, followed by whether conspecifics are present, weather variables, habitat variables, whether animals have received previous exposure to anthropogenic settings, animals’ behaviour prior to drone flights and whether predators are present. Policies and protocols that address these factors have an increased probability of minimising disturbance of drone flights. The variability in animal responses across different taxa, different ways drone flights are performed and the different circumstances they are deployed in highlights the need for taxa-specific protocols that also account for geographical and biological variations.

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