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Texas Moves Closer To Becoming Second State To Pass Drone Bill

One of 10 Predator B drones that DHS uses to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border. This plane is based in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Hernán Rozemberg
One of 10 Predator B drones that DHS uses to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border. This plane is based in Corpus Christi, Texas.

With the growing number of drones being used by by law enforcement and the public, Texas lawmakers are taking up the issue to try and set some ground rules.

House Bill 912 would restrict the use of drones, and is inching closer to becoming law. 

Rep. Lance Gooden, R-Athens, said he crafted HB 912 to reign-in a product that can be literally bought off the shelf of your local electronics store. 

"The point of this bill is to give guidance to law enforcement and say, 'These are all acceptable uses of unmanned aircraft,' but giving a blanket exemption to anyone defeats the purpose of this bill," Gooden said.

Though lawmakers know they have to do something, they don't all agree on how much to restrict use. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, said this bill focuses too heavily on limiting police department use of drones.

"For example, he talks about having an exemption for a warrant but he doesn’t talk about an exemption for inadvertent capture of images like finding a marijuana field while using a drone during a police chase," Villalba said.

Villalba proposed an amendment giving law enforcement full reign of drone use, but the amendment failed.

Texas Municipal Police Association President Lon Craft said the bill restricts even beyond that issue.

"It says, 'pursuant to a valid search warrant,' so if it’s an exception to a valid search warrant, then that still means it isn’t legal. So you get a legal search warrant that authorizes you to do it and yet you can be filed on for doing something the court says you could," Craft said.

The bill would cite anyone caught unlawfully using a drone with a Class C Misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500.

It has cleared the Texas House but still must make it through the Senate Criminal Justice Committee and a vote on the Senate floor.

Ryan started his radio career in 2002 working for Austin’s News Radio KLBJ-AM as a show producer for the station's organic gardening shows. This slowly evolved into a role as the morning show producer and later as the group’s executive producer.