Deer Trail, Colorado, is said to be the place where the world's first rodeo was held, and it may add another historical first in the near future. The small town of 600 is considering grant hunting licenses to shoot down unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), more commonly known as drones. The ordinance was considered on by the town board on August 6, but no consensus was reached. The measure is now in the hands of voters, who will decide in November whether to legalize the practice. The law would allow residents to buy the $25 hunting license and offer a $100 bounty to anyone who can produce the tail and fuselage of a downed drone.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said in a statement that the ordinance would endanger the public and warned that anyone who "damages federal property" could be prosecuted both civilly and criminally. The FAA also said that it alone controls all U.S. airspace and no local ordinances can usurp that power. But Phillip Steele, the Deer Trail resident and Army veteran who drafted the proposal, told Reuters that the FAA has no power to make laws for their small town. He said the ordinance is mostly symbolic, as a message to the federal government that Americans do not want to live in a surveillance state.
Photo of Parrot AR drone 2.0 by Nicolas Halftermeyer via Wikimedia Commons
Drones In The United States
FBI Director Robert Mueller confirmed with the Senate Judiciary Committee in June what many had already suspected: the agency uses unmanned drones in the United States for surveillance purposes. Mueller, however, did his best to mitigate this reality especially after the story broke about the National Security Agency (NSA) collecting phone and email records of nearly every American citizen. Mueller said the FBI's use of drones within U.S. borders is "very minimal."
Several local law enforcement agencies have indicated they want to utilize drones to monitor their cities in the near future. St. Louis police chief Sam Dotson wrote a letter to the FAA in March, the first step in getting approval for drones. He said he will seek donations to pay for the aircraft, which can cost up to $300,000 apiece. Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis has also expressed interest in using drones, reasoning they would be much less expensive than helicopters.
Details of Deer Trail's Law
The ordinance would allow hunters to shoot down an unmanned surveillance aircraft flying under 1,000 feet with any 12-gauge shotgun. Hunters, under current law, would also be allowed to train their labs and pointers with dog training collars to locate the downed aircraft. This training would likely be tied into the drone recognition provision of the law, which requires all potential hunters to learn how to properly identify their target. The ordinance garnered 28 signatures, or 10 percent of Deer Trail's registered voters, which forced the vote by the town board, according to a Fox News report.
Both Mayor Frank Fields and David Boyd, a town Trustee, said the ordinance has a good chance of becoming law. They believe the law will attract tourism and potentially fund projects the town has put off for years. But John Suthers, the state attorney general, told CNN that the law cannot succeed legally.
- Trevor Farrell
Trevor is an aspiring news anchor who writes any chance he can get.