The Drone Wars aren’t coming, they’re already here. See, as I pointed out in a recent Guns.com article, PETA and other animal rights groups are actively soliciting animal protectionists to purchase drones to spy on hunters.
PETA’s ‘Air Angel’ campaign, for example, encourages members to use a drone to “collect instant instant to-your-phone video footage of hunters engaging in illegal activity, such as drinking while in possession of a firearm, injuring animals and failing to pursue them, and illegally using spotlights, feed lures, and other nasty but common hunting tricks.”
PETA further suggests that the footage could be used to “alert game wardens and other authorities to who is doing what to animals.”
No hunter wants someone spying on him/her. Not only because it’s an invasion of privacy, but because drones can be noisy and disturb the hunt.
One rather obvious solution to combat invasive drones whether they be those controlled by animal activists, commercial enterprises or government agents is to simply shoot them down.
Phillip Steel, of Deer Trail, Colorado, proposed a measure that would make it legal for residents of the small town to do just that. Shoot them down.
“What has me fired up is it’s trespassing,” Steel told CNN in reference to unmanned government aircraft. “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?”
Steel’s ordinance would actually place a bounty on government drone parts recovered by gun owners, $25 for the fuselage or wing and $100 for a full drone.
However, the Federal Aviation Administration is not going to sit idly by and allow Deer Trail residents to shoot down government drones.
“Shooting at an unmanned aircraft could result in criminal or civil liability, just as would firing at a manned airplane,” the FAA said in a statement issued in response to Steel’s measure.
This is certainly true. While shooting down drones would undoubtedly be effective (assuming one is a decent shot) and probably a lot of fun, it would leave one vulnerable to criminal or civil prosecution. Getting sued, fined or thrown in jail for shooting down a drone would not be fun.
Consequently, there has to be a better way to defend against drones. One promising method is DroneShield, an open-source, community-based system that alerts one to nearby drones.
DroneShield is the brainchild of Brian Hearing, the co-founder of the company. I had a chance to ask him about his product and how it works to detect drones.
S.H. Blannelberry: So, quite simply, how does DroneShield work?
Brian Hearing: DroneShield is a small device that listens for the distinctive sound of drones and then alerts you via email, text message, long-range radio, and/or a flashing light. The sound of drones is very different from other things like leaf blowers and lawn mowers, and is very difficult to hide or mask. We’ve had victims of drone surveillance say they first thought it sounded like a swarm of angry bees! But we can detect the drone well before you can hear it.
S.H. Blannelberry: Have you received positive feedback from your customers?
Brian Hearing: Yes, we’ve received positive feedback on how easy it is to set up and configure. To be fair, we have had a lot of help from early testers to work out some initial bugs. We’ve also received a lot of positive feedback from our industry partners about how they feel safer every time they hear a news story about increased use of drones in the news.
S.H. Blannelberry: Are there any instances were DroneShield was used do detect animal protectionists’ aircraft?
Brian Hearing: Our highest profile partner is a hunting lodge that was being harassed by animal rights activists using drones. The harassment has lead to all sorts of issues such as fistfights, police complaints, and even a $15,000 drone going down over the hunter’s property. We’ve installed our devices to give advanced warning of these drones in the future, but since our systems have been installed the drones have not returned. Our company is only a few months old so we anticipate many drone detections in the future.
S.H. Blannelberry: How do you see the drone wars between hunters and animal rights activists playing out over the years to come?
Brian Hearing: I think it will reflect and possibly even lead our struggle as a nation to come to terms with this new technology. Drones are very powerful platforms but the privacy implications need to be worked out. The analogy I use is like radar detectors — it is legal for police to monitor your speed with radar guns, but the citizen should also have the right to know when they are being monitored. We think DroneShield will provide a good way to monitor the use of drones, and make sure they comply with whatever legal guidelines are out there. This ranges from shooting them down (Deer Trail, CO) to not being able to do anything about them (probably what the FAA will issue within the next few years).
Big thanks to Brian Hearing for taking the time to answer some questions about DroneShield.
As we look ahead to the future one this is clear, drone technology is not going away. It is here to stay.