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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Amazon may be using delivery drones, and at least one town may be hunting them

Deer Trail is one place Amazon probably won't pilot its "Air Prime" drone delivery system. The town is poised to vote in the next week and a half on an ordinance that will allow drone hunting.

That is, the measure will allow citizens of Deer Trail to purchase $25 drone-hunting licenses and then bring pieces of shot-down drones back for a bounty of up to $100. The text of the ordinance oozes with a not-on-my-lawn disdain for the copters. "As such, every unwanted unmanned aerial vehicle is hereby declared a threat to ... precious freedom," it reads. And, yeah, the kids can get in on the drone shooting too. "There shall be no age requirement or restriction for issuance of the hunting license." No background investigations will be needed to obtain a drone hunting license. 

A lot of people seem to think that the obstacles are too substantial for Amazon to be able to use drones anyway:

"It looks like science fiction, but it's real." That's how Amazon, the online retailing giant, describes its new plan to deliver blenders, spice racks, and sex toys in 30 minutes or less via drone. On Sunday, CEO Jeff Bezos announced that his company is in the process of testing these new delivery drones and aims to have them ready by the time the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is expected to open up US airspace to unmanned aerial vehicles in 2015. But after that date, Amazon's blender-delivering drones will still face big obstacles, such as the states and cities that are hostile towards drone-use; potential accidents with passenger planes; GPS and privacy concerns; and roving bands of laser-wielding package bandits. 

While many states are vying for the right to be official FAA drone test sites, others are doing their best to make their skies unwelcome to drones. Both Idaho and Texas have passed laws that restrict private citizens from using drones to take photos—and it's likely that Amazon drones will need to be equipped with cameras, according to the Washington Post. Another seven states have jumped on the drone-banning bandwagon, by stopping law enforcement (but not private companies) from using them for surveillance. There are also a number of cities and counties that are considering making their air spaces "drone-free zones." Charlottesville, Virginia, Iowa City, Iowa, and St. Bonifacius, Minnesota, have banned drones for at least two years. 

Here's a map showing which states have passed legislation restricting drone use, put together with help from the National Conference of State Legislatures and the ACLU. Many other states have introduced bills that are still under consideration, so check your own state legislature for more information.

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