By Matthew Francey
No one likes drones. The unmanned death machines float above Pakistani towns and Yemeni mountain ranges like hateful mechanized pterodactyls, seeming to destroy innocent civilians more often than they do their intended targets.
But it’s not just killer war drones making us uncomfortable. This year has seen vast advances in the domestic use of surveillance drones, with the UK spending £2 million ($3 million) to police the skies above the G8 conference and the US approving their use for commercial purposes. In the post-Snowden landscape, many are understandably pissed off at the idea of their government flying cameras above their homes whenever they like and some have decided to do something about it. One of those people is Philip Steel, from the town of Deer Trail, Colorado.
Philip has drafted an ordinance that aims to allow Deer Trail residents to shoot down drones, and actively reward them for doing so. The ordinance first came before the town committee in August and was stalled at a vote of 3–3, for and against. With a new vote set for October the 8, the story has since gone viral, not least because the town clerk Kim Oldfield has said that she expects the ordinance to pass at the second election.
Even if Steel’s calls for civil war, love of killer weapons, and anti-Obama rhetoric make him seem like the kind of NRA-loving right-winger whose views would usually infuriate me, the prospect of a bunch of guys chasing drones around the Wild West with shotguns is kind of romantic. I gave Philip a call to learn more about his proposals.
VICE: Hey, Philip. So, before we get into the specifics of drone hunting, can you give me some background on how this all came about?
Philip Steel: Well, in September of 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration (FFA) will implement new guidelines to extend what they call “navigable airspace” all the way down to ground level. That’s a vey big problem. Basically, it means the federal government will have jurisdiction over everything that travels through this airspace—not just regular aircraft. If someone wants to go shooting, or even play baseball, all those things will be traveling through navigable airspace under their definition. If you want to put up a building, you’ll need to get permission from the state government. It completely tramples over state rights.
And this drone-hunting ordinance is a reaction to that?
What this ordinance does, first and foremost, is declare complete sovereignty and supremacy of the airspace over the town of Deer Trail, Colorado. Which is about a one-square-mile town with around 500 people in it. We’re declaring sovereignty over that airspace, up to a 1,000-foot ceiling.