Drone Laws in Texas

Agencies Responsible for regulating drones in Texas

Federal Aviation Administration

FAA Drone Website: https://www.faa.gov/uas/

Texas State Laws – Use of Unmanned Aircraft Bill of State of Texas


UAS Laws – General rules for flying drones in TX

Drone operation in Texas is broadly governed by The Federal USA agency responsible for drone safety, the FAA. Click here for details on FAA USA Drone Laws.

In addition, the Texas State legislature has enacted several supplemental rules specific to Texas drone operations. The highlights are enumerated below. For more details go to the links above and search for unmanned aircraft.

Are drones allowed in Texas?

Drones are allowed in Texas for recreational and commercial use, subject to FAA regulations and flight controls put in place by local governments. Read on for details.

Specific additional drone use laws by Texas State legislature

Texas Government Code Chapter 423

The act broadly permits the use of unmanned aircraft (unmanned aerial systems (UAS), unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), drones). However,

A person commits an offense if the person uses an unmanned aircraft to capture an image of an individual or privately owned real property in this state with the intent to conduct surveillance on the individual or property captured in the image.

(b) An offense under this section is a Class C misdemeanor.

(c) It is a defense to prosecution under this section that the person destroyed the image:

(1) as soon as the person had knowledge that the image was captured in violation of this section; and

(2) without disclosing, displaying, or distributing the image to a third party.

It is also an offense to operate unmanned aircraft over a critical infrastructure facility.

(A) one of the following, if completely enclosed by a fence or other physical barrier that is obviously designed to exclude intruders, or if clearly marked with a sign or signs that are posted on the property, is reasonably likely to come to the attention of intruders, and indicate that entry is forbidden:

(i) a petroleum or alumina refinery;

(ii) an electrical power generating facility, substation, switching station, or electrical control center;

(iii) a chemical, polymer, or rubber manufacturing facility;

(iv) a water intake structure, water treatment facility, wastewater treatment plant, or pump station;

(v) a natural gas compressor station;

(vi) a liquid natural gas terminal or storage facility;

(vii) a telecommunications central switching office or any structure used as part of a system to provide wired or wireless telecommunications services;

(viii) a port, railroad switching yard, trucking terminal, or other freight transportation facility;

(ix) a gas processing plant, including a plant used in the processing, treatment, or fractionation of natural gas;

(x) a transmission facility used by a federally licensed radio or television station;

(xi) a steelmaking facility that uses an electric arc furnace to make steel; or

(xii) a dam that is classified as a high hazard by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality; or

(xiii) a concentrated animal feeding operation, as defined by Section 26.048, Water Code; or

(B) if enclosed by a fence or other physical barrier obviously designed to exclude intruders:

(i) any portion of an aboveground oil, gas, or chemical pipeline;
(ii) an oil or gas drilling site;
(iii) a group of tanks used to store crude oil, such as a tank battery;
(iv) an oil, gas, or chemical production facility;
(v) an oil or gas wellhead; or
(vi) any oil and gas facility that has an active flare

(2) “Dam” means any barrier, including any appurtenant structures, that is constructed for the purpose of permanently or temporarily impounding water.

(b) A person commits an offense if the person intentionally or knowingly:

(1) operates an unmanned aircraft over a critical infrastructure facility and the unmanned aircraft is not higher than 400 feet above ground level;

(2) allows an unmanned aircraft to make contact with a critical infrastructure facility, including any person or object on the premises of or within the facility; or

(3) allows an unmanned aircraft to come within a distance of a critical infrastructure facility that is close enough to interfere with the operations of or cause a disturbance to the facility.

(c) This section does not apply to conduct described by Subsection (b) that is committed by:

(1) the federal government, the state, or a governmental entity;

(2) a person under contract with or otherwise acting under the direction or on behalf of the federal government, the state, or a governmental entity;

(3) a law enforcement agency;

(4) a person under contract with or otherwise acting under the direction or on behalf of a law enforcement agency;

(5) an owner or operator of the critical infrastructure facility;

(6) a person under contract with or otherwise acting under the direction or on behalf of an owner or operator of the critical infrastructure facility;

(7) a person who has the prior written consent of the owner or operator of the critical infrastructure facility;

(8) the owner or occupant of the property on which the critical infrastructure facility is located or a person who has the prior written consent of the owner or occupant of that property; or

(9) an operator of an unmanned aircraft that is being used for a commercial purpose, if the operation is conducted in compliance with:

(A) each applicable Federal Aviation Administration rule, restriction, or exemption; and

(B) all required Federal Aviation Administration authorizations

Specific additional UAV laws by local governments within Texas

Harris County Park Drone Regulation (Includes Metropolitan Houston)

Harris County Park Rules Sec. 24 allows drone and model aircraft activities only in specified designated areas. This policy exists to maintain visitor safety.

Harris County parks with designated model R/C and drone areas include:

  • George Bush Park (Precinct 3 – Houston, TX)
  • Dyess Park (Precinct 4 – Cypress, TX)
  • Schiveley R/C Flying Field (Houston, TX)

UAS in State Parks

Texas Parks & Wildlife Policy

This policy stipulates that only two state parks allow drone operations without a permit, i.e., San Angelo State Park and Martin Dies, Jr. Those who want to fly and or film with drones and remote-controlled aircraft in other state parks must apply for a filming permit from the park’s authorities. It’s advisable to request permission several weeks in advance.

Please check with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for the latest regulations.


Notes for recreational drone pilots flying for fun in Texas

If you have a small drone that is less than 55 pounds, you can fly recreationally by following the Drone Laws in the USA defined by FAA Part 107 guidelines.

Recreational UAS operations (i.e., flying for recreational purposes) in Texas are approved under Federal law, Specifically the FAA Part 107. Please check the specific state jurisdiction for additional permissions, licensing, or clearance requirements.

Following these rules will keep you and your drone safe and will help keep the airspace available to everyone.

  1. Fly only for recreational purposes (enjoyment). 
  2. Follow the safety guidelines of an FAA-recognized Community Based Organization (CBO). Note: We have not yet begun officially recognizing CBOs. Recreational flyers should follow the safety guidelines of existing aeromodelling organizations or use the FAA-provided safety guidelines per Advisory Circular 91-57B.
  3. Keep your drone within the visual line of sight or use a co-located visual observer (physically next to) and in direct communication with you.
  4. Give way to and do not interfere with crewed aircraft.
  5. Fly at or below 400′ in controlled airspace (Class B, C, D, and E) with prior authorization by using LAANC or DroneZone.
  6. Fly at or below 400 feet in Class G (uncontrolled) airspace. Note: Drone flights may be prohibited in certain airspace or may require FAA authorization. A drone pilot can find navigable airspace, other Classes of airspace, and flying restrictions on our B4UFLY app or the UAS Facility Maps webpage.
  7. Take The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST) and carry proof of test passage.
  8. Have a current registrationmark (PDF) your drones on the outside with the registration number, and carry proof of registration with you.
  9. Do not dangerously operate your drone. For example:
    • Do not interfere with emergency response or law enforcement activities.
    • Do not fly under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
    • Avoid flying near or over critical infrastructure.

Recreational drone pilots should know that if they intentionally violate any of these safety requirements and/or operate their drone flight carelessly or recklessly, they could be liable for criminal and/or civil penalties.

Hobbyist rules in Parks, Recreation and Cultural Preserves

Two parks offer zones for flying remote-controlled aircraft (including drones): San Angelo and Martin Dies, Jr. You can request a filming permit for your craft at any park by contacting that park. Allow several weeks for us to review your request.


Notes for Commercial Drone Services operations in TX

If you have a small unmanned aircraft that is less than 55 pounds, you can fly for work or business by following the Drone Laws in the USA defined by FAA Part 107 guidelines.

Commercial drone operations in Texas are approved under the FAA Part 107. Please check the specific state jurisdiction for additional permissions, licensing, or clearance requirements.

There are three main steps drone owners must follow To fly under Part 107 rules:

Step 1: Learn the Rules

  1. Make sure you understand what is and is not allowed under Part 107 rules. Review a summary of the Part 107 rules (PDF). Still unsure if Part 107 rules work for you and your intended UAS operation? Check the FAA user identification tool.
  2. Some operations are not covered by Part 107 and will require a waiver. Here are some common examples of Part 107 sections that are subject to waiver:
    • Operation from a moving vehicle or aircraft (§ 107.25) *
    • Daylight operation (§ 107.29)
    • Visual line of sight aircraft operation (§ 107.31) *
    • Visual observer (§ 107.33)
    • Operation of multiple small unmanned aircraft systems (§ 107.35)
    • Yielding the right of way (§ 107.37(a))
    • Operation over people (§ 107.39)
    • Operation in certain airspace (§ 107.41)
    • Operating limitations for small unmanned aircraft (§ 107.51) 
    • *The FAA will not waive this section to allow the carriage of property of another by aircraft for compensation or hire.
    • If your operation will require a waiver, read about the Part 107 Waiver application process.
  3. Commercial Drone Pilots should avoid flying near airports because it is difficult for manned aircraft to see and avoid a drone while flying. Remember that the UAS operator must avoid crewed aircraft and are responsible for any safety hazard their drone creates in an airport environment. Read more about flying near airports.

Step 2: Become an FAA-Certified Drone Pilot by Passing the Knowledge Test

  1. To be eligible to get your Remote Pilot Certificate, you must be:
    • At least 16 years old
    • Able to read, write, speak, and understand English
    • Be in a physical and mental condition to safely fly a UAS
  2. Review the entire process to get your Remote Pilot Certificate.
  3. Study for the Knowledge Test by reviewing the Test Prep materials provided by the FAA.
  4. Obtain an FAA Tracking Number (FTN) by creating an Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA) profile before registering for a knowledge test.
  5. Schedule an appointment to take the Knowledge Test at an FAA-approved Knowledge Testing Center.
  6. Once you’ve passed your test, complete FAA Form 8710-13 for a remote pilot certificate (FAA Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application) using the electronic FAA Integrated Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application system (IACRA)*
  7. You are now eligible to operate as a commercial drone pilot

Step 3: Register your drone with the FAA

  • Registration costs $5 and is valid for three years. You’ll need a credit or debit card and the make and model of your drone handy to register.
  • Visit dronezone.faa.gov and select “Fly sUAS under Part 107” to create an account and register your drone.
  • Once you’ve registered, mark your drone (PDF) with your registration number if it gets lost or stolen.

Commercial rules in Parks, Recreation and Cultural reserves

Two parks offer zones for flying remote-controlled aircraft (including drones): San Angelo and Martin Dies, Jr. You can request a filming permit for your craft at any park by contacting that park. Allow several weeks for us to review your request.


Useful published information on flying drones in Texas

We have partnered with the FAA and other drone enthusiasts in supporting an internet educational campaign called Know Before You Fly. The tips, pointers, and resources apply to Texas Drone Users also. Please visit the site for additional information: Know Before You Fly

Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International – Mostly for commercial drone service providers and users.

Academy of Model Aeronautics – Mostly for hobbyists

NOTE: Small Unmanned Aerial Systems (SUAS), Small UAS, Remote Piloted Aerial Systems (RPAS), unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), and drone are interchangeable terms unless specified. Model aircraft, toy aircraft, Remote controlled aircraft, and RC aircraft may be covered by the same regulations unless specified.


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IMPORTANT NOTE

The content on this site is collated by volunteers from public general information. This material is not presented as legal advice of any kind, and we cannot guarantee that the information is accurate, complete, or up-to-date. Do not substitute the information you find here for legal advice from a licensed attorney who is authorized to practice in the jurisdiction. When in doubt, contact the local aviation authority responsible for drone safety, utilize a licensed drone service operator, and/or consult a qualified attorney.

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