Drones are in the sights of some hunters

Kansas City Star – by RICK MONTGOMERY

They would prefer to shoot at deer, but sportsmen this fall just might bag some drones.

The Kansas Sport Hunting Association probably will work into its upcoming convention a session on what to do about any non-military drone that may be spying on hunters.  

Shoot it? Ignore it? Call the sheriff?

“Within a few years, I guarantee, there’ll be a drone harvested,” said association president Ken Corbet. “What redneck wouldn’t want to have a nice drone hanging on the wall?”

Whatever it says about the times, the Federal Aviation Administration this month saw fit to release a statement warning people of the potential “criminal or civil liability” in shooting down unmanned aircraft. At issue are small civilian robots armed with cameras — increasingly a source of contempt among hunting enthusiasts, farmers and privacy advocates determined to defend their space.

The Colorado town of Deer Trail, population 550, has garnered international attention by circulating a proposed ordinance that would permit the shooting of drones. Licensed hunters may even collect a $100 bounty if they present identifiable pieces of a drone taken out, the petition proposes.

“I don’t want to live in a surveillance society,” the petition’s author, Phillip Steel, told The Associated Press. “This is a pre-emptive strike.”

Steel acknowledges the petition is mostly symbolic, given that no drones have been spotted whirring above Deer Trail.

Nationwide, however, many hunters are locked and loaded against explicit threats — by animal rights groups — to use drones for spying.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, is drawing up plans for deploying remote-controlled aircraft to monitor select hunting grounds across the country.

“We’ll be ready in the fall,” said PETA president Ingrid Newkirk. “We’re not going to be harassing hunters. We’ll be observing.”

The advocacy group says it will be looking for rule breakers. Drone cameras will zoom in on hunters getting drunk, baiting deer into an ambush or letting wounded prey flee — behavior that in many states could result in fines or criminal charges.

Large cattle feedlots and exotic animal sanctuaries may be swept by drones as well to expose inhumane or illegal conditions, Newkirk said.

“And if someone sees a drone as threatening? Go ahead, shoot at it,” said Newkirk, noting that PETA gladly will take shooters to court for property damage.

“Better to shoot at a drone than at an innocent animal with a family.”

Shot down

Steve Hindi’s drones have been fired on four or five times.

A former shark hunter, Hindi turned over a new leaf and founded SHARK — Showing Animals Respect and Kindness. The Illinois factory owner was troubled to learn of organized activities he considered an affront to sportsmanship. They included “live pigeon shoots” at resorts in Pennsylvania and South Carolina, where inedible birds fly from cages into a hail of gunfire.

Hindi monitors such events by positioning himself on a nearby road and launching a drone over the trees. He guides the “octacopter” with a joystick. In accordance with FAA rules for hobbyists in remote-control aviation, Hindi keeps the robot within view and below an altitude of 400 feet.

(Flying unmanned aircraft at higher elevations requires an FAA certificate.)

The SHARK octacopter is swift, about 30 inches wide. And at an elevation of 300 feet, “yeah, I guess it would be fun to shoot,” Hindi allowed.

YouTube video shows one drone getting nailed from the vantage point of its own camera.

Valued at about $8,000 each, however, Hindi’s drones are hardly expendable. Yet on the occasions in which the drones were winged and felled by hunters, Hindi said, local authorities resisted taking action — either against the shooter or the organizers of events he considers illegal.

Laws in many states, including Missouri and Kansas, protect hunters from excessive harassment in the lawful practice of their sport. Hindi was convicted on such a charge in Illinois.

Still, in each instance it’s up to a judge to decide. Using low-flying drones to block a hunter’s line of sight? OK, harassment. But a humming octacopter just gazing from afar, above public land?

“If they’re being used to spook the critters” into running, said Corbet of the Kansas Sport Hunting Association, “those better be disposable drones.”

Missouri Rep. Casey Guernsey seeks to eliminate the legal ambiguities.

A bill he drafted, called the Preserving Freedom From Unwarranted Surveillance Act, singles out civilian, camera-carrying drones and sets restrictions on gathering photographic evidence over private property. The bill failed to become law during the last legislative session. Guernsey said he would reintroduce it in the coming session.

“Every day there seems to be a chipping away of people’s rights to privacy … and the people don’t like it,” said Guernsey, a Harrison County Republican who helps run a family cattle operation. “A farmer who sees one of these drones buzzing above his dairy cows or his pig lots? I could see why that farmer would take drastic action. …

“These are the times we’re living in, and Missouri doesn’t have any regulation on the use of this technology. Now’s the time. If we’re not vigilant to protect our privacy rights, absolutely they will be taken advantage of.”

Drone backlash

Tensions over unchecked surveillance have grown in recent months with reports of the National Security Agency accessing data on millions of phone records in the United States.

As such, some reacted with suspicion to the federal government’s warning about shooting down unmanned aircraft.

“Open season! Pull!” commented a Yahoo News reader with the handle Spoonman.

The FAA stated that drones “hit by gunfire could crash, causing damage to persons or property on the ground. … Shooting at an unmanned aircraft could result in criminal or civil liability, just as would firing at a manned airplane.”

Many in the burgeoning field of drone development scoff at the thought of vigilantes taking aim.

“We’ll withhold comment,” said Ben Miller of the Mesa County, Colo., sheriff’s office, which is permitted by the FAA to use drones in search and rescue efforts. “The conversation is irresponsible and ridiculous.”

As the technology advances and equipment becomes cheaper, experts predict that more than 10,000 drones will share U.S. airspace by 2018, capturing overhead images for commercial purposes as well as for police and regulatory agencies. The rules of gun safety and proper sportsmanship, however, are apt to stay the same, said Brandon Combs of the California-based Calguns Foundation.

Combs’ foundation, which supports gun ownership rights, this month joined the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles and First Amendment groups in a lawsuit against the NSA’s surveillance activities.

“We would strongly encourage all gun owners to be responsible and not to shoot up into the air. Most already know that,” said Combs. “They can take up their concerns by pushing for privacy laws.”

Robin Jennison, Kansas secretary of wildlife and parks, cautioned against a rush to enact laws that could impede the benefits of drone technology. His department, which administers the state’s hunting regulations, contracts with an advertising firm using drones to photograph scenic vistas.

“The images are really beautiful,” he said.

As for those pesky PETA drones that intend to catch hunters behaving badly?

“We don’t need their scouting help,” Jennison said.
Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2013/07/27/4372219/drones-are-in-the-sights-of-some.html#storylink=cpy

6 thoughts on “Drones are in the sights of some hunters

  1. How’s this for irony?…the very same 6dof accelerometer chips, rangefinders, and microcontrollers that allow drones to fly can be repurposed and mounted with smartphone-based auto-ranging auto-lead-computing sights to allow drones within range to be single-shot targetted with ordinary hunting rifles. Just hold the algorithmically generated dot on the pesky critter and pull the trigger. Oh the irony. Hopefully bigiron-y.

  2. Drone bait.

    Three naked female (enhanced) mannequins with a cooler, on a blanket and in a lawn chair.

  3. “They would prefer to shoot at deer, but sportsmen this fall just might bag some drones.”

    Not much meat on them things.

    Or so I hear.

  4. “They can take up their concerns by pushing for privacy laws.”

    Yeah….make us do the work. How’s about when we quit buying F&G liscenses….let’s see how long your gravy train lasts then! Don’t need a stinking tag to punch a drone.

  5. The video feed from that drone was not very impressive. Even while it was being shot at, it was filming the skyline. Good luck identifying, or prosecuting anyone with that evidence.

    Its drone season.

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