The Texas Military Department took to Twitter to tell civilian drone operators to stay out of the sky over Hurricane relief efforts.
— Texas Military Dept (@TXMilitary) August 26, 2017
The Texas Military is made up of the Texas Military Department, the Texas Army National Guard (TXARNG), the Texas Air National Guard (TXANG), the Texas State Guard (TXSG) and the Domestic Operations Task Force (DOMOPS). As their Twitter account shows, the Texas Military Department is fully engaged in rescue efforts in the areas affected by Hurricane Harvey and storm flooding. While the FAA published clear guidance asking drone users not to fly, many have taken to the skies anyway in order to capture images of severely flooded areas.
The FAA says that operators flying over affected areas will face penalties:
The FAA warns unauthorized drone operators that they may be subject to significant fines if they interfere with emergency response operations. Flying a drone without authorization in or near the disaster area may violate federal, state, or local laws and ordinances, even if a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) is not in place. Allow first responders to save lives and property without interference.
In response to the Texas Military Department tweet, the FAA responded with a series of responses emphasizing that a temporary flight restriction (TFR) does not need to be in place for drone operators to be in violation of federal, state and local ordinances against interference with emergency response efforts.
Many fliers have commented that documentation is needed to let people know which areas have been flooded. While true, uncoordinated efforts are unlikely to be helpful. And as the drone industry struggles to change public perception about drones, operators should be wary about even the appearance of flying irresponsibly.
First responders in Texas are working to the extent of their resources to help storm victims – and everyone should try not to make their jobs more difficult.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.