| DENVER, Sept 5
DENVER, Sept 5 Voters in one small Colorado town
won't decide until next month whether to issue hunting licenses
to shoot down drones, but hundreds of marksmen are lining up for
permits to fell such aircraft in the unlikely event any appear
in local skies.
A resident of the small ranching and farming community of
Deer Trail, 55 miles east of Denver, floated the whimsical idea
of issuing permits as a way to protest the proliferation of
unmanned aircraft used for commercial or government purposes,
said town clerk Kim Oldfield.
Town trustees decided last month to put the question to
voters, Oldfield said, adding that there are vocal opponents to
the idea among the 600 residents of the town, which boasts that
it held the world's first rodeo in 1869.
Oldfield said the town has been inundated with applications
for the $25 permits, including from all over the country - and
from as far away as Britain and Canada.
"I stopped counting when it hit 985," she said.
Proponents envision a quirky festival surrounding the
notion, with a skeet shooting contest using small model
airplanes instead of clay targets. Oldfield said that and other
events could attract tourists and infuse cash into town coffers.
"Our intention is really not to allow people to shoot things
out of the sky," she said.
Oldfield said she was setting aside the uncashed checks
until voters decide the issue. If the town's 380 registered
voters reject the measure, the town will return the payments.
When the idea made headlines this summer, the Federal
Aviation Administration took a dim view of firing at aircraft,
even if it was just a publicity stunt.
In a statement, the agency warned against shooting at
drones, noting that a downed aircraft could damage property or
injure people on the ground, and could cause midair collisions.
"Shooting at an unmanned aircraft could result in criminal
or civil liability, just as would firing at a manned airplane,"
the statement said.
But Deer Trail resident Phillip Steel, who proposed the
license idea, said he was serious about protesting what he calls
"a surveillance society." He is selling his own mock licenses
online and said about 150 people have purchased them.
If residents reject the ballot measure, Steel said he will
continue selling his permits.
"They can't vote me out," he said.
(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Ken Wills)