Drones are becoming very popular and as their application continues to expand, you can only expect to see more drones in your city. Currently, most drones are offered for the purposes of filming, photography and fun (entertainment). Others can even offer surveillance when cameras and audio recorders are attached. Future use in transportation and delivery of online-purchased products is still under review. There are several laws put in place to ensure safety when flying a drone.
Although national and federal laws exist, states may have their own ordinances based on their unique situation and environment. Here is a brief look at Houston drone laws to be followed by everyone who intends to fly a drone:
In Houston, drones fall under UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) just like in all other states. They are remotely controlled and are to be flown in the day only within fly within 100 miles/hour speeds. Those who fly commercial drones should be at least 16 years and must have passed a test on the same. For other pilots, there are three main categories of Houston drone laws to observe.
FAA (Federal Aviation Administration)
The FAA is mandated with issuing a certificate of authorization to public agency personnel who want to fly drones and some 700 US agencies have already applied for the permission. In Texas alone Arlington PD, Houston PD, Department of Public Safety and various Sheriff Departments have already sought permissions to fly a drone. Unfortunately, the FAA does not give authorization to private citizens but they do offer laws to govern their flying. If you own a DJI drone, it must be registered and should weigh between 0.55 and 55 lbs (25 grams to 25 kg). You can register online and download your certificate. The drone should be flown below 400 feet (a 30-40 storey building).
Texas Privacy Act
Texas was among the first states to put laws in place to govern and restrict the use of drones. According to code section 423.002(a) of Texas Government, it is not illegal to take pictures with drones but you must get consent before infringing on other people’s privacy. Capturing images with the sole intent of recording someone for surveillance reasons is illegal within the code. Disclosure of images captured by drones without consent of the subjects may also attract a fine.
The city of Houston requires drone pilots to be at least 18 years old, register the drone with FAA, fly drones not heavier than 55 lbs, fly during daylight hours only and have the ability to fly above 500 feet.
It is advisable to go through all the directions given by FAA and Texas Privacy Act before you start flying drones in Houston. In some places, you can fly drones without image capturing capabilities. In others drones are completely disallowed to protect privacy and/or prevent accidents.