Michigan drone legislation zooms in on hunters

Michigan lawmakers are considering legislation that would block hunters from using drone technology for hunting animals — but would also prevent anti-hunting groups from using drones to harass hunters.

New legislation in Michigan is taking aim at another drone-related issue.

Michigan lawmakers are quickly moving to block hunters from using drone technology to track down deer and other hunted animals, but the hunters will be protected too: The state is considering companion legislation to ban the use of drones to harass or interfere with hunters from anti-hunting groups.

“This came from hunters and outdoor enthusiasts,” said state Sen. Phil Pavlov, R, chief sponsor of the first of two bills slated for a hearing Tuesday before the Michigan House Natural Resources Committee. “They felt (the use of drones) takes away from the spirit and tradition of what hunting is supposed to be about.”

The use of drones and what they can be used for has sparked much debate in state governments around the country in recent months. On one hand, governments want to find ways to regulate the continually developing technology but also must find the right balance for how they can be used.


While drones have gotten a significant amount of attention for their use in national security work – and a fear that government agencies could use them to illegally spy on the country’s citizens – most of the actual work of drone technology happens in the agricultural industry and for use by public safety officials during times of disaster.

Michigan’s debate with hunters is just another one of the many issues that are coming to the surface as more people are purchasing drones and finding new ways to use them.

Michigan wouldn’t be the first state to prohibit drone use in hunting. Alaska, Colorado, Montana and Canada’s Saskatchewan province passed bans earlier this year.

While hunting with aerial surveillance hasn’t been a problem here, according to Michigan Department of Natural Resources officials, there’s readily available Internet video showing how it might be done.

One video follows a drone-mounted camera spying on an elk among some trees near Oslo, Norway, as its operators are heard chatting excitedly. Another shows night-vision-equipped drone cameras zeroing in on nuisance feral pigs in a Louisiana farm field before they are slain by hunters on the ground using rifles equipped with night scopes.


The Federal Aviation Administration regulates drones’ commercial use by organizations such as TV news stations and by public agencies such as the police, but is under increasing pressure from private industry and some federal lawmakers to develop rules to streamline the approval process for permits.

Noncommercial use by hobbyists and other consumers is permitted at low altitudes, away from airports and within visual range. The use, though, for some activities regulated by the states – such as fishing and hunting – can add additional restrictions to their use.

Drew Youngdyke, grassroots manager for Michigan United Conservation Clubs, told the Detroit News that his organization supports the legislation.

“Our members believe in fair-chance hunting,” Youngdyke said. “We saw examples of animals being harassed and where drones were following them. This (legislation) is an effort by hunters and outdoorsmen to get ahead of a technology we don’t consider fair-chance hunting.”

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