A lawmaker from Billings, Montana has proposed a house bill that would make hunting drones illegal.
A Billings lawmaker wants to keep hunting drones from bothering hunters and anglers all across Montana.
Representative Jeff Essmann introduced House Bill 278 to the House Fishing, Wildlife and Parks Committee recently. The bill would ban all unmanned hunting drones from bothering hunters and anglers.
The proposed measure would prohibit hunting drones from taking unsolicited pictures of people, and from using them near waterways during the fishing season.
In favor of the bill is Billings resident Todd Eames who was followed and bothered by a drone two years ago near the Boulder River. Eames told reporters, “We were standing in the river, probably had been there about three hours, when I look up and about 10 feet above my head was an aerial drone.”
Opposed to the bill is John MacDonald, who spoke on behalf of the Montana Newspaper Association, claiming that banning people from taking pictures in public places to be a violation of free speech. He added;
There is a very distinct difference between harassing a hunter or fisherman and a legal right in the state of Montana to photograph. When you are engaged in a public activity, and hunting is a public activity, or you are in public, there is no expectation of privacy in a situation like that.
Chuck Flynn of the Montana Pilots Association said the bill may contradict an existing rule enacted by the Federal Aviation Administration which allows drones to be flown 400 feet above private property. Last March, the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission created a rule that prohibited using drones to harass hunters.
Under House Bill 278 harassing a hunter or angler with a drone could result in a fine of $300-$1,000 and up to six months in jail.