Texas is one of several states nationwide currently considering legislation that would either restrict or ban the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) — more commonly known as drones. On Friday, the Texas Senate approved a bill that would make it illegal to use a UAV capable of taking photographs or recording video on private property without the permission of the owner.
If the bill passes, it will make the possession of images taken with a drone a Class C misdemeanor. The charges will be bumped up to a Class B misdemeanor if the images are distributed or posted on the Internet.
The bill has already gone through the Texas House, but was amended in the Senate to exclude UAVs used by local, county, and state law enforcement agencies. Television, radio stations, newspapers, and movie producers were also exempt. So, under the changed bill, people’s privacy could still be violated by people and organizations who would use UAVs for aerial surveillance the most.
It is not clear how House Republicans will respond to the changes the Senate made. Under the bill that passed the House, Google mapmakers, border patrols, search and rescue operations, and a variety of different law enforcement activities were already exempt. Lawmakers in both the Senate and the House have three days — the end of the legislative session — to come to an agreement on the bill and send it to Governor Perry’s desk.