DEER TRAIL, Colo. — Phillip Steel, a resident of Deer Trail, Colorado, is ready to fight for the Old West values he feels are being threatened by drones.
Asked what exactly he’s proposing to do when he sees an unmanned aircraft, Steel points his weapon to the sky.
“I am proposing to shoot it down,” he said.
Deer Trail — population 598 — was scheduled to vote Tuesday on a measure that would allow its residents to hunt for federal drones and shoot them down, but Mayor Frank Fields said Tuesday that the vote has been postponed while a district court decides whether the ordinance is legal.
The vote probably won’t happen until next year, the mayor said.
Steel said he wrote the ordinance after he learned the Federal Aviation Administration “loosened regulations that would allow the flight of drones in domestic airspace.”
The FAA recently announced plans to create six drone test sites around the country, none of which has been publicly listed. It plans to allow widespread use of domestic drones in 2015.
“The overall purpose of this test site program is to develop a body of data and operational experiences to inform integration and the safe operation of these aircraft in the National Airspace System,” the agency said.
Drones are cheaper to operate than helicopters. They can be used for multiple tasks, such as monitoring crops and livestock and assessing building damage.
It’s not drones, per se, Steel says he is against. He recognizes they can be helpful in some situations, such as a search and rescue effort, but believes they don’t belong in his backyard.
“What has me fired up is it’s trespassing,” he said. “It doesn’t belong there. Yes, it’s privacy. But that’s only one part of it. Who’s going to be flying these drones?”
The ordinance specifies the kinds of weapons and ammunition residents could use and puts a bounty on recovered parts — $25 for the fuselage or wing, $100 for a whole drone that has U.S. government markings.
The idea has found some support in Deer Trail, which takes up less than one square mile and is about 50 miles outside Aurora.
“I would shoot a drone down if it’s peering in my window, scanning me, and it’s within elevation where I can nail it,” said Robert Copely, a resident.
But not everyone in town is in favor.
“That’s a federal offense to destroy government property, and on top of that it’s a ridiculous thing and embarrassing the town,” said Daniel Domanoski.
In fact, the FAA is keeping a close watch on Deer Trail’s special election. It issued a statement that sounded like a warning.
“Shooting at an unmanned aircraft could result in criminal or civil liability, just as would firing at a manned airplane,” it read.
Steel says he won’t be deterred from shooting at drones.
But he hopes the ordinance, if passed, would encourage them to steer clear of his town.
“There are many things that are illegal, but the United States federal government declared war on us. This is our response,” he said.