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Skylarking: The New Sport of Hunting Drones

Skylarking: The New Sport of Hunting Drones

If you think that the only thing you needed to worry about while flying your RC Heli was crashing welcome to the new “sport” of hunting drones.

Flying your RC heli (or RC Plane) in the small town of Deer Trail, Colorado may become one area of the country that you may want to avoid. In an unprecedented act, the local town board will vote on an ordinance that would, in essence, create a drone free zone by issuing a hunting license and subsequent bounties for RC helicopters, planes and drones alike. Additionally, not only are they promoting that you take your weapon and shoot down UAV’s but they are actually discussing offering bounties for proof of destruction. Well it’s official; we are under attack and the sport of “Skylarking” has just been invented.

FOX31 Denver KDVR-TV: – Drones have only been associated with the military for several years. But now the unarmed versions are up for sale to the public

Hold Your Fire!
Understandably the majority of drones that journalists and bloggers write about these days are military versions and include fixed wing aircraft in the mix with multi rotor helis. Nevertheless, the ordinance according to KMGH-TV / 7NEWS out of Denver states “The Town of Deer Trail shall issue a reward of $100 to any shooter who presents a valid hunting license and the following identifiable parts of an unmanned aerial vehicle whose markings and configuration are consistent with those used on any similar craft known to be owned or operated by the United States federal government.” The problem that I wrestle with is that the average citizen is not going to be able to differentiate between what a military drone versus a hobbyist RC heli or quadcopter may look like.

Over the past 4 years the RC heli industry has shifted and morphed into a more mainstream mode with the popularity of coaxial helis and more recently quadcopters including the AR parrot drone and the wildly successful DJI Phantom Aerial UAV accelerating the hobby to new heights (pun intended).

The addition of more and more RC helicopters flying in the skies makes finding a place to launch and fly your bird a little harder as we now are increasingly moving from flying in larger fields in rural areas to smaller lots and open areas in urban settings. Sometimes even backyards are used for flying and testing. I know for a fact that I have been known to test out my latest heli mod in my backyard which at the time was in a very urban area before moving to my current house in the country. I believe that the hobby has been accelerated by the widespread use of camera technology since now it is affordable to anyone with a passion for acquiring photos and video to capture broadcast quality imagery with a simple GoPro Hero3 strapped to the under belly . As a testament to the power of aerial photo / videography it was my interest in coupling a camera with a flying platform that launched my entrance into the RC heli arena over 8 years ago.

Skylarking: Hunting dronesTraditionally most RC helicopter pilots need to maintain a visual on their bird for orientation to avoid slamming your heli into the earth at high speed. However with GPS technology coupled with autopilot systems such as DJI’s Ace Waypoint Ground Station System or FPV systems where you control your heli via a video monitor. No matter how you put it copters are extending the effective range in which you can fly albeit through autonomous guidance systems or just advancements in the industry. This in turn has direct correlation to the amount of time flying and distance covered. Unfortunately, it also opens up the doors for having your RC helicopter away not only from your own view, but also making it much harder for someone to comprehend that the craft your piloting is under control by a local operator and not by some military hotshot pilot in a Syracuse suburb flying Reaper drone from the Hancock Field Air National Guard Base.

The Future of RC Flight
What does the future hold for combating aggressive behavior of drone hunters? Will we start to camouflage our helis both electronically and visually? Will local law enforcement require us to hold special permits or to have specific insurance to fly? Will we be able to capture video or photos under the appropriate conditions without the fear of our favorite heli being shot out of the sky?

It is way too early to know what will come from the hobby with the news that it’s now open season on drones, but unfortunately, the one thing we do know is that as most things these days, over regulation may be the downfall of our passion.

Don't shoot! It's just my heli!

While I don’t expect the ordinance to pass as I can’t quite grasp the concept that the states will approve the use of armed civilians to shoot down military craft. It just seems far fetched that this will go over very well with the public or for that matter government brass. Nevertheless, being an advocate for privacy I understand and appreciate the intent that is tethered to this concept of not wanting big brother to fly a drone over my neighborhood for the collection of data about what my neighbors or my family may be doing for any reason whatsoever.

The POSITIVE Aspects of RC helicopters
As I write this post it strikes me that there are many positive uses not fully realized by the public regarding RC heli tech.I think that the next topic I write about will be on the positive aspects of RC helicopter / drone technology being utilized for good in our society.

It would be nice to have residents instead of shooting any drone that they see take a second look and wonder if the drone might be actually being utilized by a farmer to survey the health of their crops or a geologist looking for patterns in a rock formation several hundred feet up in what would be a fairly impossible climb. There are so many examples that I can think of including a nature conservationist studying the flight patterns of swarming insects or for that matter someone that shares my artistic side being the flying video/photographer capturing the beauty of our country.

Either way Skylarking may actually surface something more than just bragging rights for local hunters. (I’m envisioning a fragmented drone over the mantle of a proud hunter) Maybe it will help draw positive attention to the hobby and maybe it will be a blessing in disguise.

Are you serious?
Regardless of the outcome of this small local ordinance I believe that Skylarking the new sport of hunting drones will heat up in the years to come. I also hope that you are detecting a little “tongue in cheek humor” about this topic as I think that it’s worth talking about and seeing what the RC community thinks. In the meantime I’m going to keep my eye on the developments of this story and I’m pretty sure I will stay away from flying in Deer Trail, Colorado at least for the meantime.

I would love to hear what you have to say about this topic.
Join my conversation by leaving a comment below. I look forward to hearing what you think about Skylarking the new sport of hunting drones.  : Erik

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Image credit: Carsten Frenzl via www.flickr.com\cfaobam


External links for reference:
* FAA warns: Don’t shoot down drones
* Open season on drones? Town split over licenses to hunt unmanned aircraft
* Drone-hunting permits on hold — Colorado town to let voters decide in November
* Colorado town residents: It’s a bird, it’s a plane … no, it’s a drone — shoot it!


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