Comprehensive Guide to Drone Laws in Texas

Exploring how drone enthusiasts navigate the skies of the Lone Star State with savvy and legality.

Last Updated: 13:55, 8 December 2023
author icon Written By: Benjamin Wilson

Green road sign with 'Welcome to Texas' text with trees, and blue sky, featuring a drone flying overhead.

Understanding Drone Laws in Texas: A Dual Compliance

In the vast skies of Texas, where drones are becoming as common as the state's iconic bluebonnets, understanding the intricate web of drone laws is crucial. Whether you're a hobbyist capturing the beauty of the Hill Country or a professional surveying urban landscapes, compliance with both federal and state regulations is key.

Federal Drone Laws: A Quick Overview

  • Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Regulations: These are the broad rules that apply to all states, including Texas. For a detailed dive, check out our Drone License article.
  • Registration Requirements: All drones weighing over 0.55 pounds must be registered with the FAA, marking a crucial step for drone operators in Texas.
  • Operational Limits: These include guidelines on altitude, proximity to airports, and no-fly zones, essential for safe drone operation in Texas.

Zooming into Texas State Drone Laws

  • State Park Restrictions: In Texas, flying drones in state parks is generally a no-go without a permit. However, exceptions exist in designated areas like Lake Whitney and San Angelo.
  • Hunting and Wildlife Tracking: Using drones for hunting or tracking wildlife in Texas? You'll need proper permits to stay within the legal boundaries.
  • Unique Law Alert: Cattle Feedlot Photography: Here's a uniquely Texan twist – it's illegal to take drone photos of cattle feedlots. This law has stirred quite the debate around the First Amendment, as discussed in an insightful piece by the Texas Observer.

So, what's the big deal with this law?
Well, the Texas Observer did a deep dive into this topic, and it's quite a read.
They talk about how this law is causing a stir among journalists and activists. They argue that banning drone photography of cattle feedlots puts a damper on their ability to report on important issues like agricultural practices and animal welfare.

While looking at the act that you can read for yourself here: Texas Legislature, HB 912 - Enrolled version
You'll see that the document outlines regulations concerning the use of unmanned aircraft (drones) for capturing images, and it specifies various scenarios where capturing images with drones is either lawful or unlawful.

According to Section 423.003 of the Act, it is an offense to use an unmanned aircraft to capture an image of an individual or privately owned real property in Texas with the intent to conduct surveillance on the individual or property captured in the image.
However, the Act does not explicitly mention cattle feedlots. But the problem remains, can you or can't you film cattle? They are icon to the land, quite the sight to behold.

The closest relevant point in the Act that I could find is under Section 423.002, which lists lawful purposes for capturing images using a drone.
There it says that it's legal as long as you have the consent of the individual who owns or lawfully occupies the property captured in the image.

For more insights on flying drones and the best drones equipped with cameras, check out our articles on How to Fly a Drone and Best Drone with a Camera.

Securing Permissions for Drone Operations in Texas

Navigating the permissions and regulations for drone flying in Texas can feel like a maze. But don't worry, we've got the map to help you fly right!

Permits for Texas State Parks

  • Application Process: To fly your drone in most Texas State Parks, you'll need a permit. This involves a straightforward application process, ensuring you respect the natural beauty and wildlife of these protected areas.
  • Designated Areas: Remember, some parks like Lake Whitney and San Angelo have designated areas where you can fly drones without a permit. It's all about knowing where and when you can fly.

Wildlife-Related Activities: AMP and LOA

  • Aerial Management Permit (AMP): Planning to use your drone for wildlife management or related activities? You'll need an AMP, which ensures your drone activities align with Texas wildlife conservation efforts.
  • Land Owner Authorization (LOA): If you're flying over private land for wildlife tracking or similar purposes, an LOA from the landowner is a must. It's all about respecting those property rights.

Flying Over Private Property: Consent is Key

  • Privacy Concerns: In Texas, flying a drone over private property without consent isn't just frowned upon – it could land you in legal hot water. Always get permission first!
  • Respecting Boundaries: Whether it's for aerial photography or just a leisurely flight, respecting the privacy and property rights of Texans is paramount when operating your drone.

Commercial vs. Recreational Drone Use in Texas

In the Lone Star State, the sky is buzzing with drones, but did you know the rules change based on whether you're flying for fun or for work? Let's break down what this means for drone enthusiasts in Texas.

Commercial Drone Operators: Navigating the Professional Sky

  • Licensing Requirements: If you're using your drone for commercial purposes in Texas, you'll need to obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate from the FAA. It's like a driver's license, but for the sky!
  • Registration and Operational Guidelines: Commercial drones must be registered, and operators need to adhere to specific operational guidelines. This includes flying during daylight hours and maintaining a visual line of sight with the drone.
  • Commercial Opportunities: From real estate photography to agricultural surveys, the commercial use of drones is booming in Texas. Check out our article on Drone Pilot Jobs for more insights.

Recreational Drone Users: Flying for Fun in Texas

  • Less Stringent Requirements: Recreational drone flying is more relaxed in terms of regulations. You still need to register your drone if it weighs over 0.55 pounds, but there's no need for a pilot's license.
  • Safety First: Even though it's for fun, safety should always be your top priority. Avoid flying near airports, over private property without consent, and always keep your drone within your line of sight.
  • Exploring Texas Skies: Recreational drone flying is a fantastic way to explore Texas from a new perspective. Whether it's capturing the beauty of Big Bend National Park or the bustling streets of Austin, the possibilities are endless. For some great travel drone options, take a look at our Best Travel Drones article.

Enforcement and Penalties: Real-Life Consequences in Texas Skies

Drones might be fun, but in Texas, breaking the drone laws can lead to some serious consequences. Let's dive into what happens when drone laws are violated in the Lone Star State, with some real-life examples to give you a clearer picture.

The Role of Law Enforcement in Drone Regulation

  • Active Monitoring and Intervention: Texas law enforcement agencies are not just passive observers. They actively monitor drone activities and intervene when necessary. For instance, during major events or near critical infrastructure, drone use might be more strictly monitored to prevent any security breaches.
  • Collaboration with Federal Agencies: In cases of significant violations, local law enforcement may collaborate with federal agencies like the FAA. This joint effort ensures adherence to both state and federal drone regulations.

Real-Life Penalties for Drone Law Violations

  • Case Study: Interference with Firefighting Operations: In one notable incident, a drone operator in Texas was fined for flying a drone near an active wildfire, which interfered with firefighting operations. This violation not only resulted in a hefty fine but also highlighted the critical importance of respecting emergency response activities.
  • Privacy Invasion Incidents: Texas takes privacy seriously. There have been instances where drone operators faced legal action for using drones to capture images or videos of people in private settings without consent. Such actions can lead to fines and legal repercussions, emphasizing the need for respecting privacy while flying drones.
  • Penalties for Flying in Restricted Areas: Flying drones in restricted areas like near airports or government buildings can lead to significant fines. For example, drone operators who inadvertently flew their drones near Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport faced fines and were required to undergo drone operation education programs.


Q: Do I need a license to fly a drone in Texas?

Q: Can I fly my drone in Texas state parks?

Q: Are there any penalties for flying a drone illegally in Texas?

Q: Is it legal to take photos of private property with a drone in Texas?

Q: How can I find out if an area is a no-fly zone for drones?

Q: Do I need to register my drone with the FAA if I’m flying it in Texas?

Q: Can law enforcement in Texas confiscate my drone?

Q: What should I do if my drone accidentally flies over private property?

Meet the tester

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Benjamin Wilson
Benjamin, with a background in naval architecture, is passionate about RC boats. From sailboats to speedboats, he's sailed them all. Based in Florida, he's our anchor when it comes to all things aquatic in the RC world.
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