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To fly your drone safely and legally in Texas, there are several rules and regulations that you must follow. These laws vary and can be categorized in three main types. We’ll go over each and every one of them in this article.
Because Texas is usually the outlier when it comes to US laws in general, it wouldn’t come as a surprise if they were a state that banned drones completely.
However, I got good news for you. Drones are absolutely legal in Texas, but are subject to several laws and regulations by the FAA and various local authorities.
In this article we’ll go into those various laws, which are categorized in three types. The first type being: federal drone laws.
Federal laws are laws created by the federal government, and that apply to every US state, including Texas.
I have already done an in-depth article about the general drone laws in the US, which you can find here. But I’ll brush up on them in this section.
In the US, there are two types of drone flying. Recreational and commercial:
Recreational flying is any flying that is done as a hobby (you don’t get paid for it). All you have to do to fly your drone recreationally is pass the TRUST test.
You can pass it for FREE from an official test administrator. Beware of anyone who tries to charge you for it. The FAA requires the test to be free (my personal recommendation are Uavcoach, they’re an FAA approved test provider).
In order to fly commercially, i.e receive money from your drone activities, you’ll have to study for and pass the 107 test. I have done a complete guide on that test here.
There are also various other conditions that you need to fulfill. You can check them here.
Below are the federal drone laws in Texas that you’ll have to keep in mind:
I invite you to read up more on that in my US drone laws article, where I go over airspace classifications and various other things related to drone regulations.
State laws are laws that were created by Texas’ legislators and that apply only to Texas. We’ll go over each one of them in this section.
In Texas it is illegal to capture images of private property. The only instance where you can capture images from your drone is if you’re working on behalf of a telecommunications company.
Or, if you’re in law enforcement, you can capture images as long as they are within 25 miles of the southern US border (for border security reasons, basically).
Insurance companies can also capture images, after approval from the FAA. Read up more on this law here.
Note: There is another law that allows for individuals in a certain profession to capture drone images specifically for their profession, and this is as long as no individuals are identifiable from the images.
This law prohibits flying over correctional or detention facilities. It also prohibits flying over large sports venues in some instances.
Unlike a lot of other states in the US, this law prohibits local governments (cities and towns within Texas) from making their own laws.
It’s a class B misdemeanor to operate your drone over a CIF. Texas law enforcers are quite serious about that, let’s look at what a CIF is in the first place.
A CIF, according to legislation, is any place or area that is enclosed by a fence or another form of physical barrier that is clearly meant to keep out intruders.
It may not even have a fence or physical barrier, if an area has a sign that forbids entry, put in a manner that grabs attention, it can be considered a CIF.
Examples of CIFs include:
This law here expands more on the crime of capturing images from your drone (yeah, it’s a crime). It’s even more serious if those images are of oil pipelines and rigs.
In fact, not only is capturing drone images illegal, but also their possession and/or distribution.
Under this drone law, The use of 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).
Drones are prohibited in Texas State Parks without a permit except for these two parks: Lake Whitney and San Angelo. (source)
You can still request a filming permit for your craft at any park by contacting that park. You’ll just have to wait several weeks for the park to review your request…
All drone pilots operating commercially in the state of Texas are subject to the FAA’s Part 107 rules.
These local drone laws are laws that only apply to certain cities or regions within the state of Texas. They’re created and enforced by the local authorities.
Although we spoke about a law above that prohibits local governments from issuing their own drone laws, this one is an exception.
In Harris County, a person may not operate their drone in a precinct park area. (source)
You might be wondering what form of repercussions are in place for those who break drone laws in Texas.
Well, let me say first that in comparison to the other states, the drone laws in Texas are actually quite lax.
As for repercussions, fines are up to the enforcement division, but the FAA rarely goes for the maximum.
In the case of an accidental first-offense, the FAA tends to require a temporary suspension of their UAS Airman certificate and remedial training.
For the more egregious offenses, such as flying in an airport vicinity, expect slightly more serious repercussions. Should an illegally operated drone crash and injure someone, the operator will then face serious trouble and possibly jail time.
One thing to keep in mind though is drone registration (I explain it in detail in this article), and marking your registration number on the outside of your drone!
If anything were to happen and your drone wasn’t labeled with your registration number, you could be fined up to $27,500! Compared to that, the $5 cost of registration is almost nothing.
Below is a guide on how to label your drone from the FAA.