3D Robotics

3689527377?profile=originalThe Texas Legislature has passed a drone bill, which only requires the Governor's signature to become law.

Description, from The Verge:

The Texas Privacy Act makes it a misdemeanor the use aerial drones to film any person or private property "with the intent to conduct surveillance," but it also carves out a whopping 40 exemptions. According to the bill's text, law enforcement officers will have wide authority to use surveillance drones both with and without a warrant, in order to investigate crime scenes or pursue individuals when police have "reasonable suspicion" that they have committed a crime — among a host of other circumstances. The bill also has broad exemptions for oil and electrical companies, real estate agents using drones for "marketing purposes," educational institutions, and areas within 25 miles of the Mexican border.

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  • @OG -

    Actually federal law DOES trump state law, though it's up to the federal government to enforce it. It's called the doctrine of Federal Preemption, and basically says that wherever federal and state law conflict, federal law trumps state law. Here in Colorado the feds are still free to prosecute people for possessing marijuana even though the state government has legalized it, but they simply choose not to.

    BTW, I'm a a lawyer and all this you learn in your basic first year Constitutional Law class in law school. If there's one thing lawyers hate it's uninformed people going around making blatant mischaracterizations about what the law is. I suggest you do a little research before making such statements in the future. 

  • Other way around. Federal laws trump state laws in the United States.


    The exemptions in this bill from Texas are there for when the FAA eventually allows UAV for commercial use.

  • It IS wrong of me to use my drone or any other device to take pictures through my neighbor's windows or over their privacy fence into their backyard.  

    We all know that 'drones' have a PR problem...  one of the ways to get over that is that we should be in FAVOR of privacy protections.  We should all say publicly and frequently that we never use our drones to record footage of people or private property without permission.   

    My hope is that if more states make some sort of law that says "UAVs can't invade people's privacy, but can do these other legal things" it will allow the FAA to look at the situation and say "Okay, the states can handle the privacy thing, all we have to do is make safety rules."  So the FAA rules can come out and say "Your drone has to be this light, it can't fly here and here, it has to be inspected this way, and the operator needs to have this many hours of practice to use it in this way, but we're leaving the acceptable use of this otherwise legal vehicle up to each state."  

    I do wonder if Texas meant their law as a "you have permission to do all of these things now" ruling that contradicts the federal law or if they were just trying to get it on the books (and appear proactive to the public) before the FAA issues more clear directions on UAVs for commercial use?  Seems a somewhat similar situation to Colorado legalizing weed while it's still illegal at the federal level.  I wonder if the FAA will just 'not actively enforce' the federal provisions since the state is making their own rules, the same way they're doing for marijuana in states that are decriminalizing?  

  • No, the bill only prohibits filming with UAV's "with the intent to conduct surveillance." That term is of course not defined in the bill, but I think it would be pretty obvious to local prosecutors that hobbyists are not intending to conduct surveillance. We really don't have much to worry about from this bill.

    That being said, if a hobbyist or anyone else really was actually charged under this law, I highly doubt it would survive a constitutional challenge. The courts have already ruled the first amendment includes a right to conduct aerial photography from the public airspace. Categorical limits on that just won't fly.

  • It seems to me that exception 6 is good - As long as you have the property owner or occupant's permission you can shoot all you want.  That's a good rule to keep yourself out of trouble with any video recording.  And a prosecutor has to prove intent- so if you were mostly shooting on property you have permission to shoot on and caught a glimpse of something else, it would be pretty hard for them to prove you 'intended to commit surveillance' on that property -it's obvious your intent was to stay where you were supposed to.

    Exceptions 9 and 12 allows us to volunteer our services for disaster relief and search and rescue.  As an Oklahoma City resident, that's big for me.  It was really hard last week to be 5 miles from the disaster area and listening to the scanner and news while everyone was shouting for more information about the destruction and survivors and to think "I could get an answer on that in 10 minutes...  but I'm not allowed to..." 

    Number 10 lets us document a chemical spill... and it doesn't SEEM to just give that permission to the oil companies....

    Number 13 allows real estate pictures to be taken, so there's a potential revenue stream for drone flyers!

    Exception 16 allows it on public property, even if you capture images of people.

    It actually seems to me that the list of exceptions is pretty broad and this law actually does accomplish it's stated goal of protecting people's privacy a little.  I don't LOVE the police surveillance exceptions, but it seems pretty unreasonable in this day and age to expect ME to be able to use drones to take pictures but police to be prohibited from it.   

  • Texas has basically made any use of drones with cameras illegal except for those they have specifically authorized, basically themselves.

    They probably won't be arresting people for flying in their own yards or the flying field.

    But Texas Corporations are safe from all those vicious do-gooders that want to broadcast videos of them slaughtering cattle in totally inhumane circumstance.

    Or the rivers of blood.

    They are not watching out for our rights, they are tramping all over them.

  • Moderator

    This sounds like a good move BUT dont your FAA have something to say regarding commercail UAV's that over powers the local state laws??

  • I think you should read the bill.  It looks to me like all UAV pictures/video of private property is forbidden UNLESS you fall within one of the exemptions.  Flying your drone in your neighborhood for fun?  The images you take are now illegal.  Cruising at the flying field on a Saturday?  Illegal.  I live in Dallas Texas, and I think this will kill the amateur aerial video market.  This is not a good thing.

  • 100KM
    So as a read it thisoguy in this article would have been fined and or ordered to destroy the images he gathered and be barred from distributing it nor would it be admissable in court.
    Not sure how this protects anyones right to privacy but it sure puts an end to citizens knowing the truth about what the government and corporations are up to.
  • The original bill was quite alarming as it would have practically banned all recording of images and videos by civilians from a UAV. Don't get me wrong, I'm not happy about this bill (quite the opposite, I'm pissed) but given the politics and culture in Texas I think this is the best we're going to get for now. If the governor signs it into law it wouldn't surprise me to see it revised in a few years to include more exceptions or narrowing of the scope, especially if the FAA gives commercial UAV use the green light.

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