Colorado Issues Drone-Hunting Licenses, But Arrests People For Using Them

The increased use of drone strikes abroad and the expansion of American surveillance programs at home have triggered concern that domestic drone surveillance may happen in the not-too-distant future. As such, the residents of Deer Trail, Colo. have the chance to obtain a "drone license" that would allow them to shoot down drones "known to be owned and operated by the United States federal government," pending a vote scheduled for Oct. 8. A bounty can also be collected for $100, so long as the debris collected is provided. So far the town of 500 has already received 1,000 applications for licenses.

The proposal, even if the town's citizens vote for it, is no more than a symbolic stand against what residents feel is an ever-growing surveillance state targeting its own citizenry. The federal government is considering using drones experimentally in parts of the sparsely populated western United States, including Colorado. Supporters of the proposal also insist that the licenses are a symbolic gesture, with copies being sold by proposal creator Philip Steele that state explicitly in fine print: "License may not be recognized by tyrannical municipal, state, or federal governments."

With a populace growing increasingly wary of the federal government's domestic surveillance capabilities, this is a creative way to protest the domestic use of drones. As the licenses specifically state that they are not valid hunting licenses, people purchasing them must be aware they will be criminally prosecuted if they do attempt to shoot down a surveillance drone.   

The Federal Aviation Administration(FAA) has already issued a warning against taking out drones. It states, "Shooting at an unmanned aircraft could result in criminal or civil liability, just as would firing at a manned airplane." Grayson Robinson, the sheriff of Arapahoe County, said that the licenses would not be valid and believes they hold only symbolic value.

Steele also said that the licenses are clearly "tongue-in-cheek." Additionally, the drone hunting licenses have brought much attention to the town as the majority of applications are from outside of Deer Trail, as well as from out of state. Citizens of the town consider the licenses a way to lift the local economy and boost tourism. Deer Trail, once a railroad stop for grain and livestock shippers that never fully recovered from the Great Depression or the flooding in 1965, has gained prominence in a new regard.