Drones won’t join coyotes as prey on the dun-colored prairie after voters in Deer Trail, Colorado, population 563, turned down a proposal for the town to issue hunting licenses for unmanned aerial vehicles.
Phillip Steel, a 49-year-old welding inspector, had written the proposed law as a symbolic protest after hearing a news report that the federal government is drafting a plan to integrate drones into civilian airspace, he said. The measure would have set a bounty of as much as $100 for a drone with U.S. government markings.
The issue drew 188 voters in Deer Trail to cast ballots yesterday, with 24 percent in favor and 73 percent opposed.
“That plan is a taking of property rights, a taking of civil rights,” said Steel, who wears a black duster coat and a cowboy hat. “According to a 1964 Supreme Court decision, a property owner owns airspace up to 1,000 feet above the ground.”
The Deer Trail ordinance highlighted growing privacy concerns nationwide with the expanded use of camera-equipped drones, which can be as small as radio-controlled aircraft. Thirteen states enacted laws addressing use of the vehicles, and others are being considered in Indiana, Washington and Utah, according to the Denver-based National Conference of State Legislatures.
The drone-hunting ordinance came against a backdrop of secession votes last year in 11 rural Colorado counties seeking to form a 51st state -- with five voting in favor of studying such a plan. The move also followed enactment of the toughest gun restrictions in the state in a decade, in response to a deadly shooting in an Aurora movie theater.