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Colorado town bans shooting down drones

Posting in Technology
 
Deer Trail Brown Derby ERoss99 Wiki.jpg
Mashed potatoes, gravy and guns: If you were a fly on the wall at Deer Trail's Brown Derby Restaurant & Saloon, you'd probably hear people droning on about those things today.
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A tiny Colorado town has voted down a movement that would have permitted and encouraged residents to shoot down drones.

The sensible people of Deer Trail, population 561, went to the ballots and delivered a clear verdict. Of 188 who turned up, 73 percent said "no" to a proposal that would have allowed anyone with a $25 hunting license to take aim at drones flying within the town limits, BloombergBusinessweek reported. 

Drones are unmanned aircraft that are best known for their use by the military for surveillance and attacks, but which have stormed into the zeitgeist of modern technological life. Proponents want to use them for everything from delivering pizzas and other goods to transmitting the Internet and fighting smog. Some people fear they will be used for smuggling drugs, spying, stealing data and for other questionable things.

As Bloomberg noted, "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."

Deer Trail resident Phillip Steel, a 49-year-old welding inspector, had floated the hunting idea in protest against the U.S. government's plans to to integrate drones into civilian airspace, Bloomberg wrote. The measure would have awarded a $100 bounty to anyone who hauled in a federal drone.

The U.S. Congress has asked the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) "to develop a plan to integrate drones into U.S. airspace by September, 2015," according to Bloomberg. The FAA estimates that some 7,500 drones will be operating within five years after the U.S. approves them. It has already approved 423 applications, and has received requests from educational, law enforcement and military entities.

"Unmanned aerial vehicles can be used by search and rescue officers to find missing children, to monitor weather or wildlife and to provide disaster relief, said Melanie Hinton, a spokeswoman for the Arlington, Virginia-based Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, in an e-mail," Bloomberg wrote.
This story has a distinctly "only in America" feel to it: Where else could this vote have even come up other than in a place with that unique blend of technological prowess and infatuation with guns?

Yes, a town 55 miles east of Denver, along a busy highway (Interstate 70), not too far from where a gunman unleashed a torrent of lethal bullets in a crowded movie theater two summers ago, in a state that has  suffered not one but two fatal high school shootings in recent memory, actually considered taking pot shots at pilotless aerial vehicles. (This was apparently no April Fools' joke - the issue went to a vote after local authorities split on Steel's ordinance last year, TIME Magazine said).

The sudden popularity of drones has indeed raised many legitimate concerns about their safety and their possible misuse. But thank goodness the people of Deer Trail - the home of the first ever rodeo - said no to drone hunting season.

Now if you'll excuse me, I must go answer the door, where a 16-inch pie with mushrooms and extra cheese has just descended from the heavens.

Photo is from ERoss99 via Wikimedia

The drones are coming! The drones are coming!

— By on April 2, 2014, 4:55 AM PST

Mark Halper

Contributing Editor

Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure