Colorado’s Parks and Wildlife Commission is expected to begin the process of approving a ban “prohibiting the use of drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) as an aid in scouting, hunting and taking of wildlife” in a meeting Thursday.
The ban was initially suggested to the commission by the coordinator of a local hunting group who was alarmed after stumbling upon YouTube videos posted by a group called “Louisiana Hog Control” who use a drone dubbed the “Dehogaflier” to kill wild pigs.
Timothy Brass, the Southern Rockies Coordinator for a group called Backcountry Hunters and Anglers said he wrote a letter to the Parks and Wildlife Commission last spring suggesting a ban on hunters using drones after seeing footage of the Dehogaflier’s exploits online. After the commission received the letter, staff worked with Brass to draft a ban. In a conversation with TPM Wednesday afternoon, Brass said he believes hunting with drones violates the principle of “fair chase” of game and could be used to unfairly corral animals into a single location.
“I think a regulation is needed to protect fair chase and to protect fair distribution of game among hunters. They (drones) could potentially be used to drive animals or unfairly locate animals,” Brass explained.
According to the Denver Post, the commission is expected to discuss the rule in meetings this week at the Rodeway Inn Cow Palace in Lamar, Colo. The ban will be voted on Thursday and is expected to pass. The rule would need to be approved at a second meeting to take effect.
Brass claimed the ban has “pretty overwhelming support among hunters.”
“I haven’t heard of any real opposition,” said Brass. “I certainly have not heard of any opposition from hunters.”
Multiple members of the gaming commission said they believe hunting with drones would already be prohibited in Colorado under existing regulations. A federal law called the Airborne Hunting Act prohibits people from hunting in a location within 48 hours after flying over the area. However, Gaspar Perricone, an “avid hunter and angler,” who serves on the commission as a representative of “sportspersons,” told TPM the ban is designed to make the prohibition on using unmanned aircraft for hunting “explicit.”
“It would have been difficult to forecast the need for regulating the use of unmanned aerial drones when the Airborne Hunting Act passed in the early ’70s,” Perricone said. “The regulation being presented to the commission for consideration is a response to emerging technology.”
James Palmer is one of the two men in “Louisiana Hog Control.” He told TPM he was unaware his videos inspired the proposed ban on hunters using drones in Colorado. However, Palmer pointed out his hog-killing activities are different from hunting game since hogs are classified as a “nuisance animal” in Louisiana due to the havoc they wreak on crops.
“There is a difference between game animals and what most states refer to as ‘outlaw quadrupeds,'” said Palmer. “Louisiana is the same way (as Colorado). It’s actually illegal to hunt deer with any aerial aid … nuisance animals, outlaw quadrupeds, are usually a different story.”
Palmer declined to say whether or not he opposed banning the use of drones for hunting animals that are not deemed a nuisance.
“I won’t comment whether I’m for or against such a law, but I will state that it’s already against the law,” he said.
In addition to his work with “Louisiana Hog Control,” Palmer is the chief operating officer of Raven Research and Development, a company that develops “innovative solutions and advanced technologies for the energy, defense and scientific Industries.” He used his knowledge working on defense projects to create the Dehogaflier drone and outfit it with infrared cameras. According to the news station WFAA, Palmer’s clients “include the defense department.” He declined to comment on his work with the Defense Department to TPM.
John W. Singletary, the chair of Colorado’s Parks and Wildlife Commission, said he is “95 percent” certain the ban on hunters using drones will be approved. Singletary said it would have to pass Thursday and would then be brought up for final approval at a subsequent meeting, which would likely take place next month.
“I haven’t heard anybody that’s anything but on board with it,” Singletary said of the ban.
Watch the Dehogaflier video that Bass said inspired the ban below.