The image of drones have been tainted with a social stigma as its uses have become more and more varied because of its accessibility today. In recent years, UAVs have been fraught with privacy issues, reckless flying, smuggling, air safety issues, and more. So the State of Texas isn’t having it any time of day. In fact, Texas drone laws are generally stricter than elsewhere in the US. While many states limit how much law enforcement can use drones to monitor the public, the Texas statutes are written to control and limit how citizens fly drones over private property.
Before You Fly in Texas, Here Are State Drone Laws
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Texas has drone laws that are solely unique to the state, other than the existing nationwide laws and regulations that are already set by the FAA. Texas laws, specifically Texas Government Code Chapter 423: Use of Unmanned Aircraft, set forth a list of situations where it is lawful to fly a drone or capture images using an unmanned aircraft. These are drone laws created by the Texas Legislature for pilots to be warned about.
It is considered a Class C Misdemeanor to use a drone specifically for the purpose of surveillance. Recording a person or privately owned property with the intent to spy on someone is illegal.
Telecommunications providers, law enforcement, and insurance companies may use UAS to capture images. Only law enforcement may capture images of real property within 25 miles of the US border for security purposes. Drone operators from insurance companies should be authorized by the FAA.
Flying over correctional and detention facilities is prohibited. It is also an offense if you operate an unmanned aircraft over a sports venue (arena, automobile racetrack, coliseum, stadium, etc.) and the unmanned aircraft is not higher than 400 feet above ground level.
Operating a drone over critical infrastructure facilities (property enclosed by a fence or other physical barrier designed to keep intruders out) is prohibited. In Section 3, a political subdivision may or may choose not to enforce any ordinance during special events.
Capturing images using an unmanned aircraft is permitted for the purpose of professional, academic, or scholarly research and development.
This law enumerates 19 lawful uses for unmanned aircraft:
- public real property or a person on public property;
- with the consent of the owner or legal resident of private property;
- for educational purposes;
- in FAA-designated test sites or ranges;
- by any branch of the military;
- for mapping by satellite;
- if the image is captured by or for an electric of natural gas utility for maintenance, assessment, routing, and inspections;
- with the consent of the individual who owns or lawfully occupies the real property;
- pursuant to a valid search warrant;
- by law enforcement in immediate pursuit of someone they have reasonable suspicion to believe has committed a felony offense, or to document a felony crime scene, and a list of other instances when law enforcement might want to use aerial photography;
- at hazardous material spills;
- for fire suppression;
- to rescue an individual;
- by a real estate broker so long as no individuals are depicted;
- of real property or of a person on real property that is within 25 miles of the US border;
- at a height of no more than 8 feet off the ground in a public place if image captured without amplification;
- pipeline inspections;
- port security
This act also creates two new crimes: (1) the illegal use of an unmanned aircraft to capture images and (2) the offense of possessing or distributing the image.
Texas Administrative Code §65.152
Using drones to hunt, drive, capture, take, count, or photograph any wildlife is unlawful, except with an aerial management permit (AMP) and a land owner authorization (LOA).
Texas Parks & Wildlife Policy
You have to request a filming permit for your drone at any park by contacting that park. It might take several weeks for the local government to review your request. Only two parks offer zones for flying remote-controlled aircraft: Lake Whitney and San Angelo.
Knowing the laws, regulations, and restrictions when flying drones in whichever state is extremely important. Make it a point to educate yourself. If you follow the rules, you’ll have fun.