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Can You Fly a Drone in Galveston?

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Galveston Island State Park, Stewart Beach, Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier, Moody Gardens. These are some of the sights and attractions that Galveston, Texas is most known for and that attract the largest crowds.

You, too, want to visit with your drone, but can you legally fly your drone in Galveston?

You can fly a drone in Galveston, but if you’re close to the Scholes International Airport, you must have airspace authorization. When flying elsewhere in the island city, you’re expected to follow FAA guidelines and Texas drone rules.

This guide will unpack all your flying permissions in Galveston, which you’ll find are quite generous. Make sure you check it out, especially if you’re soon planning on visiting Texas with your drone!

Can you fly a drone in Galveston? #

In our post on Texas drone laws, we covered all the federal, state, and local laws that apply to this southern part of the United States.

» MORE: Drone Laws in Texas

While Texas has a myriad of state laws (and we’ll refresh you on those later), Galveston itself does not have any local drone laws.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t policies in place when flying around certain parts of the city, but for the most part, you are permitted to operate your drone in Galveston.

Can you fly a drone near an airport in Galveston? #

Galveston has only one airport, and that’s Scholes International Airport Galveston.

As the airport mentions on its website[1], it participates in the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability or LAANC program.

Its policy is as follows:

“Drone pilots planning to fly under 400 feet in controlled airspace near airports must receive an airspace authorization through a LAANC Service Supplier before they fly…The LAANC capability is available to pilots operating under the Small UAS Rule Part 107, or under the exception for Recreational Flyers.”
Scholes International Airport Galveston

In other words, whether you’re a hobbyist or a pro commercial pilot, you still can’t forego LAANC authorization.

The Scholes International Airport Galveston website also makes it clear that you should no longer reach out to the Air Traffic Control Tower to receive authorization, even though that was once the case.

Can You fly a drone at Texas A&M University at Galveston? #

Texas A&M University at Galveston is one of the top 100 national universities. You might find yourself by the college campus purely by accident or intentionally flying there for a specific project of yours.

Either way, are you allowed to be there with your drone?

According to the college’s website[2], the answer is yes as long as you’re following the FAA’s Part 107 guidelines.

Now, if you want to get on the campus specifically and not just fly around the university, then you’ll need to fill out the UAS Flight Authorization Application.

A Supervising Authority will review your application to gauge if the flight is capable of being carried out safely.

Should that be found to be the case, then you will be allowed to fly your drone on the Texas A&M University at Galveston campus according to the rules outlined in your application.

If you’re using your drone on the college campus for educational purposes, your application review process is expedited.

Texas drone flight rules to know before flying in Galveston #

Both Texas A&M University at Galveston and the Scholes International Airport make it clear that drone pilots must follow FAA guidelines. That’s also true when flying elsewhere in Galveston.

This section will address those federal drone laws as well as state laws so you can fly safely in Galveston and even elsewhere in Texas!

You must have a valid drone license #

All drone pilots taking to the skies in the United States are required to have a valid license issued by the FAA.

For recreational drone pilots, that’s the TRUST certificate, which is obtainable by taking The Recreational UAS Safety Test.

This free online exam is less than 50 questions and lets you correct any answers you get wrong before you submit your test so you can earn a perfect score. Even better is that the TRUST certificate never expires!

For commercial pilots 16 and older, the test you’d take is the Part 107 exam, which is how you earn your Remote Pilot Certificate through the FAA.

Unlike the TRUST exam, the Part 107 exam is not free, it’s not online, and you don’t see any wrong answers until you get your test graded and returned to you later.

You need to answer 70 percent of the 50+ multiple-choice questions correctly to pass.

Once you have your Remote Pilot Certificate, keep it current. Before it expires two years after you receive it, sign up for the FAA’s online renewal exam for commercial pilots.

This exam is online and free to take, and all your wrong answers are correctable before you submit your test. You need a perfect score to recertify, so double-check that all your answers are accurate!

You must register your drone if it’s over a certain weight #

Drones weighing more than 0.55 pounds are required by the FAA and thus federal drone law to be registered with the FAA.

It only costs $5 to register your drone (that’s per drone, by the way), and you won’t have to re-register for another three years.

If working with animals, you need both an Aerial Management Permit and a Land Owner Authorization #

According to 2005’s Texas Administrative Code §65.152, which is a code from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, if you’ll “engage in the management of wildlife and exotic animals by the use of aircraft only on the tract(s) of land specified…” then you need a Land Owner Authorization or LOA.

If you’ll partake “in activities authorized by the AMP,” then you’re required to have an Aerial Management Permit or AMP.

Keep your drone within the 400-foot altitude limit #

It’s not only around airports that you have to limit the altitude of your UAV. Throughout Texas, your drone cannot exceed heights of 400 feet.

Maintain your visual line of sight when flying your drone #

You’re also required to always keep your drone within your visual line of sight when it’s flying about Galveston. This means that if you’re having a hard time seeing your drone, you better bring it back in before it goes further out!

Do not exceed speeds of 100 miles per hour #

The FAA also requires you to only fly your UAV at top speeds of 100 MPH.

There’s rarely any need to zip along that fast unless you’re trying to capture high-speed footage. Even then, sophisticated drones usually have a mode that lets you do that without putting your drone at risk.

Only fly your drone during daylight hours and in clear weather #

Once the sun is up and until it sets again, you’re free to fly your drone in designated areas in Galveston and elsewhere in Texas. After nightfall, do not fly.

Refrain from operating your UAV in inclement conditions such as strong winds, hail, rain, and even the occasional snow that Texas receives.

Do not fly over a moving vehicle or over people #

Federal drone guidelines restrict you from flying your drone over any moving vehicle, be that on a residential street or highway.

Likewise, you cannot fly your drone over people.

There are exceptions to these rules. Participating vehicles that are stationary can be filmed, and participating people as well.

Give manned aircraft the right of way #

Should you ever find yourself in a situation where it’s your drone sharing the skies with a manned aircraft, you must always yield to that aircraft. They have the right of way in that scenario, not you.

Do not use your drone to violate someone’s privacy #

The Texas Privacy Act or HB 912 is a state law passed in 2013 that prohibits pilots from taking “an image without the express consent of the person who owns or lawfully occupies the real property captured in the image.”

If you disobey this guideline, it’s a Class C misdemeanor punishable by fines of $500.

Avoid targeted facilities, critical infrastructure, and other large facilities #

The 2015 state law HB 1481 makes it clear that drones cannot fly over targeted facilities such as rubber manufacturing and chemical facilities, gas or oil pipelines, nuclear electric power generation facilities, natural gas generation facilities, electric generation facilities, and alumina or petroleum refineries.

You’ll need to pay attention to HB 1424 as well, a 2017 drone law that prohibits pilots from flying over critical infrastructure facilities, detention facilities, and correctional facilities even within 400 feet unless you have written consent.

Further, you’re barred from any sports venue or arena with space for 30,000 people.

Disobeying these laws is a Class B misdemeanor.

Conclusion #

Galveston, Texas is an excellent place to fly a drone, but you do have some rules to abide by. You always have to follow federal laws, including FAA guidelines.

Texas also has a slew of state laws that prohibit you from getting too close to sports arenas or critical infrastructure facilities, so keep those rules in mind as well.

Happy flying!

References:1. Scholes International Airport (link)2. Texas A&M Galveston, TX (link)


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