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Montana politician shoots at the sky in the first drone attack ad

Montana politician shoots at the sky in the first drone attack ad

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The place of commercial, humanitarian, and law enforcement drones is a contentious issue in the United States. The public is suspicious of them, and the FAA isn't yet sure how to integrate them with crewed planes; it recently grounded a search and rescue operation in Texas. Lawmakers in 43 states have proposed regulations on how unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can operate, and nine states have passed bills. While there's bipartisan support for these rules, and the drone has come to stand for overreaching government surveillance across the political spectrum, it's become particularly symbolic for libertarians and conservatives in wide-open states like Colorado, Montana, and North Dakota, where a man was arrested with help from a Predator drone in 2012.

A recent (and very effective) ad from Republican Congressional candidate Matt Rosendale, currently a Montana state senator, perfectly captures the rhetoric around them. "This is how I look from a government drone," says Rosendale over aerial footage with a "drone" user interface. "And this is what I think about it." He raises a rifle and fires: signal lost. Rosendale isn't the first to suggest shooting drones. The town of Deer Trail, Colorado spent almost a year considering a proposal that would let the town issue "drone hunting" licenses and set a bounty for downed federal UAVs. It was finally voted down early this month. The federal government has maintained that shooting at a UAV is considered just as criminal as shooting at a crewed helicopter or airplane.

A practical note: small commercial UAVs are supposed to fly below 400 feet, some much lower. Predators and other high-powered surveillance drones fly at closer to 25,000 feet. Barring extraordinary circumstances, you're not hitting one with a hunting rifle.