When people think of UAVs, they often conjure the image of a predator drone over a war zone. However, the majority of UAVs are scientific instruments for aerial photography or other useful sensor readings that can serve many applications in the public interest.
The bill has already passed the House and in committee in the Senate today. We hope the Senators will consider the following points.
. HB 912
sponsors have sold it as a measure to protect the privacy of “teenage daughters”
and other examples of individual privacy. There are already privacy laws on the books, and a drone hovering over your house is a lot more conspicuous than a peeping tom with a telephoto lens. What is the real concern here?
Blood in the Trinity River from a meat packing plant. Source: SUAS
. When people think of private land, they tend to think of their homes, or small farms and ranches. However Texas is unique in that 94% of its land is privately owned and the vast majority of industrial activity that affects public resources occurs on this land. UAVs can be an important tool towards protecting Texas’ water resources, roads, and other natural resources and public infrastructure. The Bill’s original sponsor, Lance Gooden’s top donor is the Oil and Gas Industry.
At the very least, an exception for news media and citizen research for the public’s interest should be included in the law.
The location of oil and hydraulic fracturing activity, pipeline incidents, and the projected Keystone XL Pipeline. Civilian UAVs can operate safely outside of populated areas and image various activities in the public’s interest.
Sources: Census 2010, Railroad Commission of Texas, Keystone Mapping Project, US DOT Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, reported incidents between 1/10-3/13. Map by Public Science League.
Essentially, this is simply a matter of greater access to a new technology. Space satellites and aerial imagery from planes and helicopters will still be legal under this bill, but journalists and citizen scientists safe operation of UAVs would be criminalized. UAVs can be lifesaving tools during disasters, and sources of valuable public information in the coming decades. It is reasonable to deduce that the primary benefactors of this bill are corporations that do not want the public to have this new capability to see if they are abiding the law. This bill also lacks foresight for the potential economic, environmental, and educational benefits this new technology can enable in the near future.
About: The Public Science League is an organization focused on empowering citizen scientists and protecting their rights to explore the world legally and safely.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org / 512-333-1532