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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7 Responses to Drone Hunting

  1. Kim Smith says:

    It was a tie! So, now we have to wait until the November elections to see if the town approves the measure.
    http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/local-news/town-board-in-tiny-deer-trail-colo-votes-tonight-on-proposed-drone-hunting-licences-bounties

  2. John Craven says:

    Great post Kim! It is very interesting to see how different communities are reacting to the prospect of domestic drones. Though increasing the number of government and privately operated drones does pose privacy concerns, it is important to note that the cameras and sensors that would be on many of the unmanned aircraft are not new, and have been used by law enforcement for years. It will be interesting to see how this ordinance plays out.

  3. Danielle Barav says:

    Thanks for this post! I think it is very interesting to see how different communities are responding to FAA efforts to regulate future private use of drones in the US. Drones have a lot of constructive uses, like monitoring wilderness areas to prevent poaching or alerting authorities to wildfires. Unfortunately, they can easily carry advanced surveillance equipment that may encroach on personal privacy. Further, the Constitution doesn’t protect people from private surveillance – citizens would have to rely on tort law or local statutes to protect their privacy. I think a good solution is for the FAA to allow local communities to determine whether unmanned aircraft will be allowed within their airspace. That way, citizens can determine if the costs outweigh the benefits. As this post shows, there are many creative solutions out there!

  4. Anonymous says:

    What a great post, Kim. Forget Russia, perhaps Edward Snowden should consider seeking asylum in Deer Trail, Colorado.

  5. Will Wojcik says:

    Great post Kim. I’m sure the local Deer Trail taxidermist is a little concerned about hunters bringing in drones to mount. While the ordinance itself is fascinating, your post also clued me in on a new emerging market in the United States: commercial use of drones by non-government entities. The idea of privately owned drones flying around sniffing for chemicals or tracking heat signatures is both intriguing and unnerving.

  6. Stewart Bohan says:

    Good post, Kim! People are so strange. You must be right about the fact that this is mostly symbolic, as bringing down a government drone with a shotgun obviously would warrant a larger bounty than $25. In all seriousness, though, I share the concerns of the FAA about what the town plans to do if a drone is actually shot down. What if it destroys property? Or kills someone? And what do you do with it once it is down? Light it on fire? Bury it? Send it back to whence it came? I have a feeling the ordinance fails to answer any of the questions.

    Keep us posted on whether the ordinance passes!

  7. Samantha says:

    This is a really interesting post. I’m not sure if shooting at drones is the best strategy to ensure privacy, however. It may cause more harm than good. It will interesting to see what happens with this ordinance.