Sunday, January 29th, 2023
Sunday, January 29th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Senate approves bills to regulate drone use

Lansing — State lawmakers have reintroduced bills designed to control the use of drones, and the measures are quickly making their way through the legislative process. 

Senate Bill 54, introduced by Sen. Tom Casperson, would prohibit the use of unmanned aerial vehicles commonly known as drones to harass or interfere with hunters, or to use submersible, remote-controlled vehicles to harass anglers. 

Senate Bill 55, introduced by Sen. Phil Pavlov, would make it a crime to use drones in the taking of game. 

The bills are tie-barred together, so both must pass to become law. The same bills were introduced in the 2013-14 legislative session but only one gained final approval of the Legislature, so Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed both bills. 

“We were hopeful they would get done last year,” Trevor VanDyke, legislative liaison and policy advisor for the Michigan DNR, told Michigan Outdoor News. 

“There was no substantive changes in the bills” when they were reintroduced earlier this year, VanDyke said. Both have since passed the Senate and were slated for hearings in the House Committee on Tourism and Outdoor Recreation in March. 

Matt Evans, Michigan United Conservation Clubs legislative affairs manager, said the group supports both measures as a means of preserving the state’s legacy of fair-chase hunting. 

MUCC members last June passed an official policy resolution that “basically says exactly what’s in the bills,” Evans said. 

“We haven’t had anyone speak out that’s opposed to it.”

Neither DNR nor MUCC officials have received reports of hunters using drones to take game, or anti-hunters using the devices to harass sportsmen, though Evans said some use drones to scout for game during the off-season. 

Evans and VanDyke believe the legislation will still permit the use of drones to track wildlife outside of the hunting season.

“The language is you can’t use UAVs or drones in the taking of game,” Evans said. “The key part of that is ‘in the taking of game.’ ”

VanDyke said it’s already illegal to use drones for hunting because of various aeronautics, wildlife, and environmental protection laws, but the proposed legislation more directly addresses the issue. 

Michigan hasn’t had problems with anti-hunters using drones, he said, but it isn’t for lack of trying. 

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals encourages its members to purchase an “Air Angels Drone” through its online magazine for $324.99. 

PETA’s troops can use “The New Hobby for Animal Protectionists” to “collect 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 tricks,” according to the product description. 

“PETA has come up with a drone program that can help protect animals from illegal hunting and other nasty pursuits, and you can be part of the action with an Air Angels Drone!” the online catalogue reads. 

VanDyke is optimistic the bills will soon become law. 

“Hopefully in the next few weeks it will be on the governor’s desk for his signature,” he said.

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