(NaturalNews) In response to a small Colorado town's proposal to place a bounty on drones, the Federal Aviation Administration is warning that anyone who shoots down an unmanned aerial vehicle risks fines and jail time.
Drones "hit by gunfire could crash, causing damage to persons or property on the ground, or it could collide with other objects in the air," the FAA said in a July 19 statement. "Shooting at an unmanned aircraft could result in criminal or civil liability, just as would firing at a manned airplane."
The FAA's statement comes in response to reports that the small farming and ranching town of Deer Trail, Colo., where residents say the country's first rodeo was held in 1869, is considering an ordinance that would make it legal for hunters to shoot down drones.
Reuters reported July 21 that trusties of the 600-resident town, which lies some 55 miles east of Denver on the high plains, planned to "debate an ordinance that would allow residents to purchase a $25 hunting license to shoot down 'unmanned aerial vehicles.'"
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Similar to the bounties governments once paid to hunters who killed animals that preyed on livestock, but only after they produced the ears, the town would pay $100 to anyone who can produce the fuselage and tail of a downed drone.
"Either the nose or tail may be damaged, but not both," the proposal mandates.
'We don't want to become a surveillance society'
Drawn up by resident Philip Steel, 48, an Army vet with a master's degree in business administration, the proposal may simply be a whim and not likely to be taken seriously or ever implemented. But, Steel says, the point is that the government's expanding use of drones - and the growing commercial use of UAVs as well - presents major privacy concerns and is alarming.
"We don't want to become a surveillance society," he told Reuters in a phone interview.
Steel says he personally has not seen any drones flying over Deer Trail, but says "some local ranchers" outside the town's city limits have.
Under his measure, hunters could shoot down drones legally if they are seen flying below 1,000 feet, with a 12-gauge or smaller shotgun. In addition, Deer Trail would be required to create a drone "recognition program" for hunters, so they can properly identify UAVs.
"In no case shall a citizen engage an obviously manned aerial vehicle," the draft proposal says.
If town fathers don't vote in favor of his proposed ordinance, Steel said it'll go before voters who will decide the issue in a special election.
'If you don't want it shot down...'
The FAA, however, has been charged with developing regulations for widespread drone usage by 2015. Shooting them down is not likely to be permitted.
When asked about the agency's warning, Steel shrugged it off. "The FAA doesn't have the power to make a law," he told the Christian Science Monitor.
Even Steel admits his proposal is mostly symbolic, but he says he wants to use it to draw attention to what he believes is the coming onslaught of drone usage, over Deer Trail as well as the rest of the country.
"If you don't want your drone to go down, don't fly it in town," he said.
His proposal, however quirky, is just the latest in what is becoming a growing backlash against widespread drone usage.
"Dozens of laws aimed at curbing the use of the unmanned aircraft have been introduced in states and cities. Privacy advocates have expressed fear that police will use drones to cheaply and effectively conduct widespread surveillance without warrants," said the Christian Science Monitor.