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POLITICS: PennAve

Colorado town takes aim at drones

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While state and local governments nationwide are drafting laws to restrict the use of surveillance drones, civic leaders in a tiny town on Colorado’s eastern plain say they have a better idea.

Shoot them down.

Amid fears of the federal government using the aerial robots to spy on citizens, the town of Deer Trail will begin issuing drone “hunting licenses” if the town council passes a controversial ordinance Tuesday night.

Deer Trail resident Phillip Steel, who wrote the proposed law, said it would protect individual privacy rights.

“If you don’t want your drone to go down, don’t fly it in our town. That’s our motto,” Steel told CBS’s Denver affiliate, KCNC. “We don’t want a surveillance society here.”

Deer Trail Mayor Frank Fields said the proposed ordinance is “kind of real, kind of tongue-and-cheek,” the TV station said. But with the license costing $25 and possibly attracting tourists to the town of 550, Fields says drone “hunting” is a potential money maker.

“We need tourists, we need money,” said the mayor, who added that he believes the proposed law will pass. “It’ll get more people in this town.”

The proposed ordinance, which would “defend the sovereign airspace of the town of Deer Trail,” also calls for a $100 reward for anyone with a valid license who shoots down a drone owned or operated by the federal government.

More than 150 people already have signed up to get a license.

But the Federal Aviation Administration isn’t amused, warning that people who fire weapons at a drones are endangering the public and property and could be prosecuted or fined. The FAA also warns it has jurisdiction over the nation’s skies.

A drone “hit by gunfire could crash, causing damage to persons or property on the ground, or it could collide with other objects in the air,” said the FAA in a statement issued in response to the proposed ordinance. “Shooting at an unmanned aircraft could result in criminal or civil liability, just as would firing at a manned airplane.”

At least 43 states have enacted or proposed about 100 drone-related bills and resolutions in the past year, with most aimed at regulating and restricting how they’re used, and who can use them, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The flurry of legislative activity was prompted by last year’s FAA Reauthorization Act passed by Congress, which orders the FAA to develop regulations for the testing and licensing of drones for commercial and local and state government uses — including police — by 2015.

But commercial drone advocates tout their potential widespread benevolent uses — from fighting wildfires to crop dusting to Hollywood film making to search and rescue purposes.

The FAA estimates that about 7,500 small commercial and local/state government unmanned aircraft will be licensed to fly by 2018.

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