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Are domestic drones set to become the prey of Colorado hunters? If one resident of Deer Trail, Colorado gets his way, the answer is yes. The FAA is not expected to release regulations on the domestic use of drones until 2015, but this small town is taking a preemptive (if largely symbolic) stand against the use of drones in the United States. An ordinance proposed by Phillip Steel would allow the town to issue “drone hunting licenses” for $25. Under the law, hunters would be able to collect a bounty of $25-100 for successfully shooting down a drone–though they are limited to using a 12-gauge shotgun in their hunting endeavors. Those seeking a license can do so anonymously and without satisfying any background check requirements.
The government is currently testing the domestic use of drones (in unknown locations), and until the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) enacts regulations, a ban on commercial use remains in effect. Some private parties, however, are utilizing the technology despite the ban). Thus, it is not quite prime drone hunting season (as a matter of fact, none have been spotted in Deer Trail–yet). And, even assuming widespread use of domestic drones, the ordinance is also problematic considering that the destruction of U.S. government property is illegal. Mr. Steel counters this point by arguing that spying on American citizens is also illegal. Additionally, it would seem that an ordinance allowing the hunting of anything in a town (no matter how small) may also be just a bit irresponsible.
While Mr. Steel seems to believe the proposed ordinance would effectively uphold the privacy rights of Deer Trail citizens, others have have said that the ordinance would be more of a symbolic gesture. The town’s mayor has even suggested that it may boost tourism. Still, the proposal prompted a response from the FAA, which pointed out that the repercussions for shooting at an unmanned drone are the same as for shooting at an aircraft and that falling drones could pose a danger to the public.
If you are interested in obtaining a drone hunting license, you will have to wait and see if the Board of Trustees passes the ordinance on August 6.
– Kimberly Smith
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