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Colorado town rejects drone-hunting licenses

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - Voters in the small farming town of Deer Trail, Colorado, on Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected a tongue-in-cheek proposal to issue hunting licenses to shoot down unmanned drones that fly over the hamlet's airspace, an election official said.

The ballot question, which would have allowed the town of 600 to issue mock $25 permits for the supposed targeting of unmanned aerial vehicles, was rejected by 73 percent of voters, said Town Clerk Kim Oldfield.

"We weren't going to really let people shoot aircraft out of the sky," Oldfield said.

The proposal in the town 50 miles east of Denver was a whimsical notion. Some residents suggested it be accompanied by an annual shooting contest using model airplanes or other quirky activities to attract tourism, Oldfield said.

While Deer Trail became a center for anti-drone activism, the proliferation of unmanned vehicles for commercial, government and other uses has lawmakers across the United States looking at how to regulate the aircraft.

Fourteen states have passed laws relating to the use of drones. Aside from military operations, they have applications that range from law enforcement to wildlife tracking, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The Deer Trail drone-hunting idea was the brainchild of Phillip Steel, who described it in a telephone interview as a "call to all who love peace and freedom to stand up and resist all those who would trample precious liberty."

Not all Deer Trail residents were on board with Steel.

Harry Venter, the 82-year-old publisher of the weekly newspaper, the Tri-County Tribune, called the notion "silly."

"Maybe it's harmless, but we put people in jail down here for shooting pheasants out of season," said Venter, who has published the paper since 1966.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) took a dim view of the proposal after the Deer Trail drone-hunting proposal made news last summer, regardless of how serious it might have been.

The agency said in a statement the downing of any aircraft poses a hazard to people and property on the ground.

"Shooting at an unmanned aircraft could result in criminal or civil liability, just as would firing at a manned airplane," the FAA said.

(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Paul Tait)

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