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Will Pennsylvania Regulate Drones Used for Hunting?

State lawmakers are considering a ban on aerial drones that aid hunters in their pursuit of game.

Hunters will be prohibited from using drones to spot and take down game in Pennsylvania if new legislation regulating the activity becomes law.

The hunting drone proposal – sponsored by Rep. Marc Gergely, D-Allegheny County -- follows Senate approval of a measure authored by Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-Newport Twp., that bans the use of drones to harass sportsmen. Gergely’s bill has not yet been introduced, but it is expected to exempt U.S. Fish and Wildlife officers, law enforcement and military personnel, according to The Times-Tribune.

Drone use has come under fire over the last few years as animal rights activists and hunters have sparred over the groups’ respective use of the aerial technology. In addition to the Mullery legislation, Alabama introduced a bill earlier this year to stop outdoor sportsmen from being harassed by drones. Illinois passed a similar measure last year, supposedly due in-part to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) interest in using drones.

PETA has a hobby drone available for purchase on its website. The product description encourages prospective buyers to use the drone to capture video footage of illegal hunting and fishing activities that can reported to law enforcement authorities.

Pennsylvania law makes it illegal to harass hunters, however, setting up a potential legal issue if the multiple bills regarding drones become law and are challenged in court.

With regard to the Gergely legislation, Heidi Prescott, an official with The Humane Society of America, told The Times-Tribune that it supports the intent of Gergely’s proposal, and that drones give hunters an unfair advantage they were never intended to have.

-- Brian Heaton

Brian Heaton was a writer for Government Technology and Emergency Management magazines from 2011 to mid-2015.