What You Need To Know About Drones
Over the past twenty years there have been huge advances in all forms of technology and it is no shock that major improvements have been made to nearly every type of hunting and fishing equipment. As a boy I remember walking behind my dad following a blood trail after dark with a Maglite the size of my forearm, and today I own several flashlights that take up less room than a candy bar with battery life and brightness that far exceed the trusty old 4-Cell D Maglites. As a young kid I often thought about how nice it would be to call a helicopter to look for a wounded deer instead of walking through a forest of prickly pear that I was not yet tall enough to see over. With the relatively recent availability, and affordability, of small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS) or drones, the idea of looking for animals from the air is suddenly a realistic option. With that being said, it is not legal for the average person to do so in Texas, but we’ll get into that shortly.
Drones and the use of drones are regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration, or the FAA. First of all every drone over 0.55lbs must be registered with the FAA every 3 years. This simple process takes only a few minutes and costs $5 per drone. Another thing to keep in mind is that there are many areas where it is not legal to fly drones and if you are contacted by a police officer or game warden the phrase “I didn’t know it was illegal” probably isn’t going to get you out of trouble. There are many online resources including smartphone apps that tell you where you’re legally permitted to fly. Additionally, unless you have a Remote Pilot Certificate from the FAA and a permit or waiver to do so, you need to make sure to keep your drone under 400 feet when you are flying.
Now, generally speaking, flying around your ranch looking at vegetation, roads, houses and fence lines can be fun and shouldn’t be a problem. This will make you more familiar with your property and gives a very different perspective than you’ll get driving around or even what you can see from satellite imagery like Google Earth. It can be a handy tool for tasks like checking how much rain your back tank caught without tearing up the roads to drive back and look. As you’re flying around, whether near town or along the property line of your ranch, please remember to be courteous of your neighbors. If possible it is not a bad idea to make a quick phone call and let people nearby know what’s going on. Not everyone likes seeing a drone flying near their property and this can cause unnecessary conflicts and leave you explaining things to a peace officer. There is still a common misconception that a drone flying high up in the sky can zoom in and look in your bathroom window and take pictures of you. While there is technology out there capable of this, such machines cost several thousands dollars and are closer to military-grade technology than what is available at Wal-Mart.
From a wildlife management standpoint, drones can be incredibly useful tools, provided you have the proper permits and certificates. As we discussed before, it is not legal for the average person to fly a drone around looking for an animal you shot and can’t seem to find. If you are flying low enough to disturb wildlife or with the intent of observing or filming wildlife, including exotic species, you’re breaking the law. To legally fly a drone to photograph, video, count, or observe wildlife you need to have Land Owner Authorization form and Aerial Management Permit on file with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. To get these forms filled out and approved you’ll need a Remote Pilot Certificate from the FAA mentioned above.
Much in the same way that you are required to take a Hunter’s Safety Course or class for a License to Carry Permit, these laws are in place to protect everyone and keep people safe. If you plan to buy a drone to fly around your ranch or hunting lease, please do your research first and make sure you ask someone if you’re not sure about the laws. Below are a couple helpful links that should answer many of your questions.
Spring Creek Outdoors now offers ranch drone video production and ranch mapping services to help landowners and hunters better manage their property. We have the full licensing, permitting and experience required to fly your ranch in order to film the project to help you plan habitat management project, water distribution/development projects, cattle rotation/new fencing projects, blind/feeder placement projects or simply just to show off your ranch to friends and family. If you are interested in wall maps or hand-held maps of any size we can produce them to show the soils, terrain, habitat types, infrared habitat distribution, water distribution, hunting blind/feeder locations or just a pretty boundary map! We can gather GPS and ArcGIS datasets on your ranch with endless options available and we can measure and inventory anything. We can do all your ranch mapping needs so check out the website for details and give us a call with specific questions and to receive a price quote.
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