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Everything is bigger in Texas — including tough laws for public, private drone use
Still, clamor for the law was such that, with time running out to pass bills in the state House in May, a chant of “Drones! Drones! Drones!” filled the chamber. It was approved with more than 100 bipartisan co-sponsors.
Todd Humphreys, director of the University of Texas’ Radionavagation Laboratory, said he believes the state has struck fair balance but also noted that much of what’s prohibited is still acceptable for anyone with a camera and a long lens in a car, helicopter or plane.
“You can see, all through this legislation, examples of people just being spooked by these vehicles,” Humphreys said. “They associate them with war or surveillance like something out of ‘1984’.”
Alicia Calzada, an Austin-based attorney and former photojournalist, noted: “Any time you need that many exceptions to a bill, it’s a sign you’re going down the wrong road.”
Gooden said the law won’t affect journalists because covering news doesn’t meet the definition of surveillance. And the hobbyist’s discovery of pig’s blood would fall under exceptions that allow drones to hunt for environmental hazards, he said.
But Gooden added that instance of uncovering wrongdoing shouldn’t trump privacy protections for all Texans.
“We could scrap the section of the Constitution that says you’ve got to get a search warrant, and then law enforcement can just go search a random 100 houses every night,” he quipped. “I’m sure they’d find something.”
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