Colorado Town Goes Drone Hunting
Across the country and around the world Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), popularly called drones in the media, are all the rage. Several states, wary of potential unconstitutional violations of civil rights from these remote controlled planes, have passed laws limiting their use. One Colorado town is even talking of declaring open season on these flying robots.
One town's fight
The small town (pop 500-ish) of Deer Trail, Colorado, is considering licensing bounty hunters to shoot unlawful drones flying over the town from the sky. The concept is to allow hunters who pay a $25 fee to snipe shoot UAVs with shotguns of 12-gauge or less. For each set of salvaged drone wings turned in, the city will pay the hunter a $25 bounty. For an entire aircraft, $100.
The offending drone has to have 'federal markings' and according to a recent article in the Daily Caller, "Drones can become targets if the bounty hunter feels the aircraft is stalking them, if they maneuver as if they're following someone, or if they display any weaponry. Nevertheless, if anyone accidentally shoots down a remote-controlled toy airplane, the proposed ordinance warns, "the owner of the toy remote control aerial vehicle shall be reimbursed for its full cost by the shooter."
Furthermore, each hunter is allowed no more than three shots at the drone every two hours.
This ordinance is set to go to a vote by the city council in August and is by far the strongest proposed legislation in any state that we can find directed at the threat of pesky drones.
Deerfield Colorado interestingly enough is between Security (bottom left) and Last Chance (top right) on the map.
Legislation has been introduced and signed into law in the past year in Florida, Tennessee, Virginia, Texas, Idaho, and Montana that regulates the use of UAVs by government agencies against civilians inside their states. In some cases these state laws ban almost all use and in others limit law enforcement use by requiring a warrant for drone surveillance (except in emergency situations). No less than 36 other states are looking into similar laws.
Drones in the US
(The Predator and its larger brother the Reaper are among the most popular drones used by the US military. Some unarmed ones are also in use by the Department of Homeland Security marked as the above for patrol of the borders)
While the military has more than 7000 UAVs, ranging from small handheld backpack drones that can fly for a few feet/few minutes to huge Global Hawk models that are the size of a jetliner and can stay airborne for days. These military drones, in accordance with FAA rules, are typically only flown overseas, over bluewater, or over military airspace in the US, and as such aren't going to be flying over Deer Trail Colorado anytime soon.
However, there is a movement in police circles to adopt these remote control aircraft for law enforcement work. While this has mainly just been seen in large metropolitan areas like Houston, LA, and Miami, smaller agencies are looking into the craft. These small UAVs are increasingly available and are sure to be used as they become cheaper and more effective.
For instance, the sheriff's office in rural Mesa County (pop 147,000), Colorado in 2011 won FAA permission to operate small Draganflyer drones anywhere in the county. These small 18-pound mini-helicopters cost about $10,000 and are equipped with GPS and high resolution digital cameras for quiet remote viewing and surveillance. Such craft can be used for search and rescue and surveillance, but liberty minded advocates worry about privacy issues and a growing fear of constant tracking of the populace without a warrant.
(Photo of the Draganflyer from their website)
This has led to the push back we have seen across the country.
The Feds view on drone hunting
The FAA is taking the (probably symbolic) pending city ordnance seriously. They have issued a warning stating that shooting at a drone would result in the same type of prosecution as shooting at a manned airplane. Shooting at a manned aircraft can result in up to a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine, which is far more than a symbolic statement.
Firearms Talk will keep you informed on this story as it develops... possibly with the help of our fleet of drones.
Watch the skies!