Editorials

Drop that drone: Texas adds more no-buzz zones

Jim Robesky hovers his DJI Phantom drone at eye level with the remote control, at Parker Heights Park in Quincy, Ill.
Jim Robesky hovers his DJI Phantom drone at eye level with the remote control, at Parker Heights Park in Quincy, Ill. AP

If you are now the owner of a drone, be thrilled but also warned.

Texas has given you slightly more freedom to fly a drone. In the latest slap at city ordinances and local agencies’ lawmaking authority, House Bill 1643 prevents cities and other agencies from regulating drones except over special events or agency property.

In other words, school districts can still ban drone cameras over high school football practice. But only with a federal OK first, and a public hearing.

Having said that, be warned that Texas already had one of the most restrictive drone laws in the U.S.

And that statewide law just got tougher.

House Bill 1643, signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott and effective Sept. 1, makes it a crime for anyone besides an owner to fly a drone low over an oil or gas facility, compressor station or above-ground pipeline.

The same law also adds cattle or hog feedlots, chicken farms and cellphone towers as no-drone zones.

You can imagine why ranchers want to stop drone surveillance. The author, state Rep. Drew Springer, R-Muenster, is from a district with a lot of cattle and chickens that might be disturbed by drone flights, and energy plants with owners who fear prying eyes.

Lawyers representing press photographers questioned whether the law is constitutional. But cities and school boards protested loudest to Abbott, saying school officials need the authority to restrict drones quickly.

This Legislature sees no rightful authority other than its own.

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