Legal Aspect of Flying Drones explained by D.A. Patrick Wilson

 
Ellis County and District Attorney Patrick Wilson has had his run-in with drones. The Daily Light covered the story of one crashing into his backyard and another one flying over a private home and photographing the owners in their pool. Mr. Wilson visited the Rotary Club to explain the legal requirements for flying a drone or being spied on by a drone.
 

In the first place if your drone weight between 0.55 pounds and 55 pounds you must register it with the FAA. The FAA calls drones Unmanned Aircraft Systems and some of the rules are the same as for manned aircraft. Forms and requirements are at www.federalregistrations.com . You can be fined if you are supposed to register and do not. These rules may include those Christmas toys.

Many of the laws pertaining to privacy and defense against drones already are in place. For instance if you shoot one down the same law that applies to drive-by shooting will apply to you. If you live in a two-story home you can already peer into your neighbor’s back yard.

There are many things that may be done with drones including professional or scholarly research, U.S. Military activities, utility maintenance, hazardous material evaluations and police work. You may not use a drone to commit crime, conduct surveilance or use some images which you saved. Be careful of postings on social media.

For commercial use of a drone such as recording a wedding, selling real estate, farming and pipeline monitoring the FAA requires a serious application. The "pilot" must prove he is qualified and be accompanied by a qualified observer who will watch the drone while the pilot flies it.

Drones can not be flown over people, chemical factories, pipe lines or many other obvious kinds of installations. The law still has not been tested in court but meaningful fines can be imposed and serious jail time given. Many definitions in the laws are vague and until there is a test case actual fines and jail time will not be known. Because of these factors and because you do not want to be the test case you might want to wait a little before taking up this new hobby.

For more information about the Rotary Club of Waxahachie where we believe in Service Above Self and doing things as a club we cannot do alone, visit the club web site at www.waxahachierotary.org . You can find American flag subscription forms there.

 
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