The purpose of making flying robots or drones was to keep an eye on the criminals in a more smooth and easy way. But now, besides keeping an eye on the criminals, drones are also used spying upon general people, specially upon US citizens. Many organizations like the EFF and ACLU have tried to raise the issue over people’s privacy concern, but failed to grab government’s attention. But now, Texas has declared war on the drones.
In 2012, a hobbyist operating a small UAV over public land in Dallas, TX, accidentally photographed a Dallas meat-packing plant illegally dumping pig blood into the Trinity river, resulting in an EPA indictment. Representative Lance Gooden introduced HB912, a bill for capturing images by unmanned vehicles and aircraft. It was written in the bill:
“A person commits an offense if the person uses or authorizes the use of an unmanned vehicle or aircraft to capture an image without the express consent of the person who owns or lawfully occupies the real property captured in the image.” (“Image” is defined as including any type of recorded telemetry from sensors that measure “sound waves, thermal, infrared, ultraviolet, visible light, or other electromagnetic waves, odor, or other conditions”.)
This means, any robot in the air, underwater, on the ground, even if operating on public property, that inadvertently records any type of sensor data originating on private property, is deemed illegal. Apparently it seemed that the bill was preventing government drones from spying on citizens but actually it wasn’t. Rather, the bill had vast proposition gap and hence Todd Humphreys of the UTA Radionavigation Lab warned, “the legislation is overly broad. It doesn’t allow for a distinction between intentional peeping toms and inadvertent or unwitting surveillance”.
On the other side, EFF and ACLU have tried to stop spying on general people, but the government ignored them. After long patience, now Texas people have burst into rage. Now they have declared war on drones.
If you’re in Texas and concerned about this bill, there’s an FPVLAb discussion thread about it with information on contacting your representatives.