The Detroit News: Drone ban flies in the face of entrepreneurship and rights

November 10, 2023 | By ANDREW QUINIO

Mike Yoder, founder of Drone Deer Recovery Inc., is an entrepreneur. He saw a problem and came up with a innovative solution.

Yoder founded his business in October 2022 to help hunters locate their downed game using advanced unmanned aerial vehicles (drones). Wounded deer and other game run off a significant distance after a hunt, often into densely wooded areas, making them difficult to find. With this business, a hunter can connect with a drone operator through his website to aid in the search of a deer after it is shot.

But he isn’t stopping there. Yoder is working to turn his business into the Uber of drone companies. And if you look at the growth, customer satisfaction, and the environmentally safe alternative he provides, he just might be right.

Yet despite this success, the sky isn’t the limit for Yoder and his fleet of drones; the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is, along with outmoded laws and a bureaucracy unwilling to budge that are stifling his growth.

In several states where Yoder wants to expand operations, laws prohibiting the use of drones have grounded the company’s growth. For instance, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources informed Yoder he cannot do business in the state. The DNR cited a state law that prohibits using drones for “taking” animals.

But Yoder’s business doesn’t take any animals; it simply collects information about their location after they have been hunted and transmits that information to the hunter. Yoder is in the business of communication, not hunting.

Drones are essentially flying cameras with powerful long-zoom lenses and infrared detection capabilities. This allows them to capture real-time images of downed wildlife from 400 feet in the air. Rather than hunting aids, these devices are airborne information gatherers and transmitters. And they are also much more effective at locating game than other tools hunters use, such as dogs or trail cameras.

More importantly, drones leave a much smaller footprint on the environment and do not disturb other wildlife or trample on vegetation, as dogs do. Since drones are controlled in real time, they are easily tracked and retrieved when the job is done. The fact that drones can quickly find dead game is better for the ecosystem overall, as fast removal and disposal of dead game reduces the risk that deadly diseases will spread to other wildlife or infiltrate the food or water supply.

It’s not the first time Michigan has limited useful tools in this sport. Beginning in 1887, the state prohibited using dogs to hunt deer. Not until 1998 did the state allow dogs to aid in locating wounded animals. Just as the laws evolved to allow more efficient methods of finding downed game by permitting the use of dogs, they should evolve to permit Drone Deer Recovery’s services.

Michigan’s attempt to ground Drone Deer Recovery’s services violates Yoder’s constitutional rights.

Yoder is determined to have Drone Deer Recovery take flight in the Great Lakes State. With the help of Pacific Legal Foundation, He and his company are pushing back against the unconstitutional restriction on his ability to communicate to his clients and expand his business.

Today, drones are used as a communication tool in nearly every industry. Whether in construction, real estate, academia, or the military, entrepreneurial tech leaders like Yoder enhance the way we do business. Even the Michigan Department of Natural Resources embraces drone technology for information gathering and dissemination, using it to find wildlife, assess forest health, and capture the state’s beautiful landscapes.

The department should allow Yoder’s business into Michigan. Drone Deer Recovery would benefit hunters, the environment, and all Michiganians. Until that day, Yoder will continue the fight for his constitutional rights, sending a clear message that the government should not restrict entrepreneurs by limiting new and innovative ways to communicate.

This op-ed was originally published in The Detroit News on November 1, 2023.