Drone Legislation – Effective Immediately


Action:  Notify your FSOs and Plant Managers 

The Texas Legislature recently passed a bill designed to protect the state’s critical infrastructure from surveillance and attack by drones. House Bill 1481 prohibits the operation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) over specific critical infrastructure facilities and makes it a criminal offense.

We have seen a dramatic increase in the popularity and use of drones; thousands were bought this year for Christmas presents and user groups are springing up globally. We are also seeing the problems they can facilitate – landing on the White House lawn, crashing into the stands at the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament, and interfering with commercial aircraft.

This new regulation defines a critical infrastructure facility as a facility that is completely enclosed by a fence or other physical barrier . . . obviously designed to exclude intruders, or where there is a sign or signs that indicate that entry is forbidden. Petroleum refineries, power generation plants and substations, chemical plants, water and wastewater treatment plants, natural gas processing plants, compressor stations, terminals and storage facilities, ports, and certain dams are specified.

The operator of the drone can be charged with a Class B or A misdemeanor if they operate the aircraft 400 feet or lower over a critical infrastructure facility, if the aircraft makes contact with the facility, or if the aircraft is close enough to interfere with the operation of the facility. The bill exempts law enforcement agencies or persons operating the aircraft for law enforcement agencies. Importantly, the bill does not apply to the owner or operator of the critical facility or a person working for the owner or operator of the facility as drones are increasingly and productively being used for plant and offshore facility inspections.

Also recently, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a regulation that requires persons who own drones over 0.55 pounds to register the drone online with the FAA. This requirement was effective December 21, 2015. Drone owners will have to pay a $5 registration fee for an unlimited number of aircraft for a three year registration. Each aircraft must be labeled with the registration number. This is easily done on a new FAA website. Failure to register an aircraft can result in civil and criminal penalties ranging from $27,500 to $250,000 and/or imprisonment for up to three years.

FAA Drone Registration Website – CLICK HERE

Complete list and Texas bill  – CLICK HERE

For more information on operating drones legally, safely and responsibly, visit Know Before You Fly – CLICK HERE

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