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Want to hunt a drone? Go to this Colorado town

By   /   July 18, 2013  /   2 Comments

ap FILE PHOTO

TAKE AIM: A shotgun might not be the best defense against a Predator Drone, but some hunters have shot down drones before.

 

By Calvin Thompson | Colorado Watchdog

The Deer Trail Town Board is considering a hunting season on drones, complete with a bounty on provable kills.

In addition to raising awareness of the surveillance state, the town might be offering Coloradans an affordable hunting opportunity at — $25 — only a fraction of the cost of most other Colorado hunting licenses.

No word yet if drone barbecues will become part of the tradition after a successful hunt.

Drone hunters would be limited to using shotguns, and would earn a $100 bounty if they can present “identifiable parts of an unmanned aerial vehicle whose markings and configuration are consistent with those used on any similar craft known to be owned or operated by the United States federal government.”

The ordinance’s author, Deer Trail resident Philip Steel, tells ABC 7 News he has never seen a drone in Deer Trail, and that the ordinance is a symbolic against the surveillance state and intended as a novelty revenue stream.

The ordinance calls for a Deer Trail “unmanned aerial vehicle recognition program,” to help hunters bag the right vehicles, and keep from shooting down piloted aircraft. Another thoughtful provision allows residents who feel they are being followed by drones to shoot them down, even without a hunting license.

So far, the Federal Aviation Administration would not offer Colorado Watchdog comment.

Helpful as the ordinance would be in controlling federal drones, most of the drone privacy abuses in America have occurred on behalf of local governments.

Kim Oldfield, Deer Trail’s clerk and treasurer, assured Colorado Watchdog that shooting down drones from state and municipal governments is still in the spirit of the ordinance, and drone hunters would be encouraged to shoot down state and municipal drones with equal enthusiasm.

“We are concerned about all types of drones,” she said.

North Dakota has the dubious distinction of making the first recorded arrest with the aid of a Predator Drone, used by the local police. As early as 2005, police in the town of La Plata, Md., were using drones to spy on bikers at a rally, just scanning for illegal activity.

The Gaston County (N.C.) Police Department conducted a drone program without the permission of the Federal Aviation Administration. FAA pressure has grounded it for about the past five years.

At least four organizations already have been granted permission to operate drones in the Centennial State. The FAA is secretive about whom it has allowed to fly drones across the United States, but the Electronic Frontier Foundation gained the drone authorization list of 2011 and 2012 after a lengthy lawsuit.

Two of the drones operating in Colorado airspace are weather measuring devices owned by the University of Colorado Boulder’s “Research & Engineering Center for Unmanned Vehicles” (yes, they have one), and another is an Air Force drone intended for the Pinon Canyon Military Operations Area.

But the last one is owned by a local law enforcement agency. The Mesa County Sherriff’s Office got permission to use a drone for search and rescue operations, and the vaguely defined purpose of “reconnaissance in support of law enforcement operations.”

We recommend the Deer Trail Town Board include an exception to the ordinance to respect the airspace of the recently developed pizza delivery drones.

Contact Calvin Thompson at calvin@coloradowatchdog.org. Follow him on Twitter at @watchdogco.

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