Texas, House Bill 1643 to ban drone flights over feedstock.

Critical infrastructure is a term to become familiar with. Texas House Bill 1643 has been sent to Gov. Gregg Abbot and he is expected to sign it, and for it to take effect in September.

On the face of it Critical Infrastructure sounds like it should be big stuff like nuclear power stations and hospitals. It is, it is also less critical things like feed lots.

If passed from September, flying below 400’over livestock in Texas might result in a class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail.

Feed lots were added to the Texas critical infrastructure list because of a fear of bio attack by drone! Manned helicopters and aircraft are not censured in any way.

To me this seems like a polluters charter and method to stop investigation of those suspected of poor animal husbandry and hygiene.

Texas has form when it comes to being light on polluters. In 2011 an anonymous operator sent sUAS News some images of blood in the Cedar Creek, Dallas.

 I was looking at images after the flight that showed a blood red creek and was thinking, could this really be what I think it is?  Can you really do that, surely not? 

Whatever it is, it was flat out gross.  Then comes the question of who do I report this to that can find out what it is and where it is coming from. 

The story became our most successful of 2011 it traveled the world. A drone feel good story (although the platform was simple RC AP platform). It underlined the value in low cost environmental imaging.

The owners of the meat factory got off on a technicality, Carl and Rusty Ondrusek, executives at Columbia Packing faced 18 charges a Dallas County grand jury charged Columbia Packing and the two men with pollution and evidence-tampering, with $1.5 million in fines and prison time. When it came down to it they got off because investigators trespassed when gathering evidence.

Texas quickly moved to stop this sort of citizen expose happening, in 2013 the Texas Privacy Act was passed. The law includes guidelines for criminal and civil punishments: a Class C misdemeanor “if the person uses an unmanned aircraft to capture an image of an individual or privately owned real property in this state with the intent to conduct surveillance.”

In the civil action section,  “an owner or tenant of privately owned real property located in this state” can bring legal action against a person who captured an image of the property, owner or tenant. Penalties start at $5,000 for capturing an image, $10,000 for the display or distribution of any images and recovery of “actual damages” if the drone operator “distributes the image with malice.”

To me, house Bill 1643 builds on the 2013 Privacy Act and feels like a restriction of the freedom of the press.

Parking pollution for a moment, another consideration for those making inspections of critical infrastructure is what data is gathered and by whom. Is the manufacturer of your platform with your permission sending information out of the USA? Who owns the data you have shared?

As I said at the top, time to get familiar with your equipment and what exactly is defined as critical infrastructure.

Part 107 operators beware, you might inadvertently fly over critical infrastructure that you were unaware of.

The critical infrastructure list from House Bill 1643

“Critical infrastructure facility” means: one of the following, if completely enclosed by a fence or other physical barrier that is obviously designed to exclude intruders, or if clearly marked with a sign or signs that are posted on the property, are reasonably likely to come to the attention of intruders, and indicate that entry is forbidden:

(i) A petroleum or alumina refinery;
(ii) An electrical power generating facility, substation, switching station, or electrical control center;
(iii) A chemical, polymer, or rubber manufacturing facility;
(iv) A water intake structure, water treatment facility, wastewater treatment plant, or pump station;
(v) A natural gas compressor station;
(vi) A liquid natural gas terminal or storage facility;
(vii) A telecommunications central switching office or any structure used as part of a system to provide wired or wireless telecommunications services;
(viii) A port, railroad switching yard, trucking terminal, or other freight transportation facility;
(ix) A gas processing plant, including a plant used in the processing, treatment, or fractionation of natural gas;
(x) A transmission facility used by a federally licensed radio or television station;
(xi) A steelmaking facility that uses an electric arc furnace to make steel; [or]
(xii) A dam that is classified as a high hazard by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality; or
(xiii) A concentrated animal feeding operation, as defined by Section 26.048, Water Code; or
(B) if enclosed by a fence or other physical barrier obviously designed to exclude intruders:
(i) Any portion of an aboveground oil, gas,or chemical pipeline;
(ii) An oil or gas drilling site;
(iii) A group of tanks used to store crude oil, such as a tank battery;
(iv) Aan oil, gas, or chemical production
(v) An oil or gas wellhead; or
(vi) Aany oil and gas facility that has an active flare [that is enclosed by a fence or other physical barrier that is obviously designed to exclude intruders].