Do you live in Texas or are planning to move there and wonder how to get a drone license in Texas, either for recreational flying or professional drone tasks? You’ve come to the right place.
Besides ensuring you know the best ways to fly a drone, a license also helps ensure the credibility and accountability of a pilot.
It also ensures peace of mind since you know you will not have run-ins with local law enforcement agencies unless you deliberately break the law.
So, how do you get a drone license in Texas?
To get a drone license in Texas, you need to get the FAA’s Part 107 pilot’s certificate to fly commercially or a COA if you’re flying for a government entity. If you want to fly recreationally, you must register your drone and pass the TRUST (The Recreational UAS Test).
Please keep reading to learn more about the laws that govern drone usage in Texas and how to adhere to them.
Here is what you need to do to become a licensed drone pilot in Texas.
Note: This process, and the drone license is valid throughout all the states of the USA.
To fly commercially within Texas, you need to acquire the Part 107 Pilot Certificate.
This involves taking drone training courses at a recognized school, or self-training through YouTube, and taking a test that will gauge your aeronautical knowledge.
Pilot Institute has a very comprehensive study guide on what to expect in the Part 107 certification test.
All courses offered by Pilot Institute are taught by remote pilots, flight instructors, FAA commercial pilots, and other certified professionals.
Once you’re confident you have all the necessary information, you must create an Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA). After that, you will get an FTN (FAA Tracking Number).
After getting the FTN, take the online course and take the test at an FAA-Approved Knowledge Testing Center.
To become a licensed drone pilot, you must be at least 16 years of age, proficient in reading and writing the English language, and be in good health such that you are able to safely operate a UAV.
Some of the topics tested in the knowledge test include: air operations, emergency procedures, human factors in Aviation, regulations UAVs should adhere to, etc.
The FAA details how to go about taking the course, some approved testing centers, and the topics you will learn during the course. See the link below for more information.
Federal Drone Laws
Like every other state in the United States, drone pilots in Texas must adhere to the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) regulations.
These laws include the following:
- All drones weighing between 0.55 and 55 pounds must be registered on the FAA DroneZone website (link). The registration costs $5.
- If you’re a government employee and want partial authorization to use drones for specific tasks, you can also get the COA (Certificate of Waiver or Authorization).
- If you only need to fly a drone for recreational purposes, you must take the TRUST (The Recreational UAS Safety Test), an online course that teaches the pilot the safety rules to follow when flying. After completing the course, you take an online test. Once you pass the test, you get a certificate of completion and a unique identifying code.
Below are the best drone flying practices as per the FAA guidelines:
- Always fly within the visual line of sight.
- Keep the drone at a maximum 400-foot altitude unless you’ve applied for a Waiver.
- Always carry a copy of the license or proof of the TRUST with you.
- Avoid flying in restricted areas or areas with emergency response activities underway.
- Make sure you’re in perfect health condition and not under the influence of drugs before flying a drone.
TRUST is a collaboration between the FAA and industry to provide TRUST and educational safety material to Recreational Flyers.
Texas State Laws for drones
The Part 107 license is recognized in Texas since it’s a Federal authorization. However, below are the State Laws you should know before flying a drone in Texas.
Authorization to Take Images (SB 840 //2017)
According to this law, drones users are allowed to take images of restricted areas as long as they fulfill one of the following criteria:
- They are an affiliate of an institution and took the image for research and development.
- To test a UAV as authorized by the FAA, as part of the US military operations, or for mapping.
- Telecommunication providers, natural gas, oil, pipelines, and other utilities can take images using drones for assessment, repair, and maintenance.
- You can take photos of a property as long as you have the owner’s consent.
- Law enforcement officers can take images of property as long as they have a warrant to document a crime scene, investigate an accident, perform emergency response, tactical operations, and other recognized tasks under the law.
- Licensed land surveyors, Real Estate professionals, insurance companies, and their affiliates can use drones to take images as long as the individuals in the images can’t be recognized. HB 2167//2015 has a similar provision.
Flying Over Protected Facilities (HB 1424//2017)
According to this law, drone pilots are not allowed to operate RPAs over the following facilities:
- Correctional facilities – confinement, detention, county jails, etc.
- Critical Infrastructure facility – This includes railroads, refineries, electrical facilities, telecommunication facilities, rubber manufacturing facilities, water intake structures, natural gas facilities, dams, steel-making facilities, sports centers, and transmission facilities.
Local UAS Regulation (HB 1643//2017)
This law has two sections:
- SECTION 1 stipulates that it’s a criminal offense to fly a drone in a facility enclosed with a fence and clear signs against intruders. These range from industrial setups to personal property.
- SECTION 2 stipulates that the state should only attempt to regulate UAVs during special occasions. The rest of the time, drone pilots should adhere to the FAA regulations.
Texas Parks & Wildlife Policy
Flying drones in parks and wildlife reserves without a permit is prohibited, except for two parks; Martin Dies Jr. and San Angelo. But if you want to fly in the restricted parks, you can apply for a permit, which can take a couple of weeks to process.
Can You Shoot A Drone In Texas?
Some people have tried, Popular Mechanics even has a comprehensive guide on doing it, but it’s illegal and risky.
For starters, federal and state laws allow professionals to fly drones over a property for research, mapping, real estate, etc., as long as the people captured are not identified.
Even though you could claim the drone was spying on you, most municipalities prohibit shooting guns into the air, not to mention the bullets or the drone debris could fall and cause damage to property or hurt people.
In 2015, a man from Kentucky was arrested for shooting down a drone that was allegedly hovering over his house, and he was charged with Criminal Mischief and wanton endangerment.
How Much Does A Drone License Cost In Texas?
Taking the Part 107 course and testing costs around $150, while the registration for hobby pilots costs $5.
Can I Fly A Drone Without A License?
Yes, but you’ll still need to complete the TRUST (The Recreational UAV Safety Test) and get a certificate. A license is only necessary when practicing commercial flying.
Do I Have To Register My Drone In Texas?
Yes, you do. All drones weighing between 0.55 and 55 pounds will need to be registered and the registration number attached to the drone before flying in Texas.
What Do I Need To Fly A Drone In Texas?
To fly a drone in Texas, you’ll need the TRUST completion certificate for hobby pilots or the Part 107 certificate for commercial pilots.
Is It Legal To Fish With A Drone In Texas?
Like in all other states, Federal regulations state that you can’t use drones for fishing.
Spotting fish when flying over the water body and dropping the bait are allowed, but pulling the fish out with the drone isn’t allowed.
Can You Hunt Hogs With A Drone In Texas?
The FAA prohibits the use of drones to hunt, find wounded animals, calculate wildlife or even capture wildlife without a permit.
You can access such permits at either the Land Owner Authorization (LOA) or the Aerial Management Permit departments.
Where Can I Fly A Drone In Texas?
You can fly a drone anywhere in Texas, as long as it’s not in State Parks, too close to airports, or the areas prohibited under the State laws.
But there are exceptions.
For instance, professional land surveyors, Real Estate agents, and researchers can take images for their line of work.
Industrial facilities can also take pictures of their facilities for repair and maintenance.
Man shoots down drone hovering over house (link)
Authorization to Take Images (SB 840 //2017) (link)
Flying Over Protected Facilities (HB 1424//2017) (link)
Local UAS Regulation (HB 1643//2017) (link)