Texas, Tennessee and Illinois Pass State ‘Drone’ Legislation

As the legislative season for most states winds to a close, Texas, Tennessee and Illinois passed new state legislation aimed at restricting the use of unmanned aircraft (‘drones’) within their respective states.

On May 28th, the Texas State Legislature passed and sent to the Governor House Bill 912 which makes it an offense to use an unmanned aircraft to capture the image of an individual or privately owned real property with “the intent to conduct surveillance”. The bill also makes it unlawful to possess or distribute an image that was captured in violation of this law. Once signed by the Governor, the new law goes into effect September 1, 2013.

On May 20th, Governor Bill Haslam signed the Tennessee “Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act”. This new law defines the term ‘Drone’ and prohibits law enforcement agencies within the state from using drones to gather evidence or other information except under explicit circumstances specified in the law. Tennessee’s Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act goes into effect July 1, 2013.

The Illinois General Assembly passed two separate bills relating to the use of ‘drones’. House Bill 1652 changes the state’s Fish and Aquatic Life Code by making it illegal to use a ‘drone’ in a “way that interferes with another person’s lawful taking of wildlife or aquatic life”. And similar to Tennessee’s ‘drone’ legislation, except as specified in the law, Illinois’ “Freedom from Drone Surveillance Act” (SB1587) prohibits law enforcement from using drones to gather information.

Rich Hanson
AMA Government and Regulatory Affairs


    1. Both the Illinois Freedom from Drone Surveillance Act and Fish and Aquatic life Code state that a ‘Drone” is any aerial vehicle that does not carry a human operator.

      Tennessee defined the term “drone” as a a powered, aerial vehicle that: (A) Does not carry a human operator and is operated without the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the aircraft; (B) Uses aerodynamic forces to provide vehicle lift;(C) Can fly autonomously or be piloted remotely; and (D) Can be expendable or recoverable.

      Texas used the term “Unmanned Aircraft” but did not define it.

      Rich Hanson
      AMA Government and Regulatory Affairs

  1. Rich Texas does define an aircraft in their general code. Probably won’t be defensible to argue that Unmanned Aircraft wasn’t defined. Some states are including very specific definitions even point to the FAA Reauthorization Act.

    1. Hi Gary, I agree…

      Tough the term “unmanned aircraft” was not defined in the new law, its application will undoubtedly be deemed to mean any aircraft, as defined by the general code, that does not have a human operator on board.

      Rich Hanson
      AMA Government and Regulatory Affairs

  2. And Texas was signed by Gov. Rick Perry on June 14, 1913. Pretty sad day if you live in Texas.

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