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THREE NEW DRONES: Jacinto City’s Eyes in the Sky

ABOVE: A flying drone plane took this photo 150 feet up in the air of the two communication workers (center of photo) removing the obsolete equipment from the water tower. Workers used the crane’s hook and cable to take the equipment off the towers handrail and lower it to the ground. (Photo by Lt. Mark Longrigg, Jacinto City Police Drone Operator)

By Allan Jamail

September 21, 2020 – Jacinto City’s newest budget has provided for acquiring three drone planes to improve city services and to make it safer for emergency personnel.

City Manager Lon Squyres said the city’s police, fire and emergency management departments each has one. The drones have speakers, night lights as well as infra red night vision cameras, costing about $4,500 each.

Lt. Mark Longrigg one of the police department’s drone operators said, “These drones are and will be used for many purposes, such as assisting us in locating lost children, elderly and etc. Ariel surveillance to locate suspects, suspect vehicles, etc. We’ll use them to access locations that might be inaccessible to patrol vehicles and personnel.”

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has restrictions on where drones can and cannot fly, rules regarding air space use and they cannot be flown over 400 feet high.

The Texas law governing drone use by law enforcement can be found in the Government Code:

Title 4. Executive Branch Subtitle b. Law Enforcement and Public Protection, Chapter 423, Use of Unmanned Aircraft. Police must first get a search warrant under most circumstances before conducting surveillance on a person or on private property unless they have sufficient information the person is a suspect in a crime. There’s other exceptions law enforcement has without the need of a search warrant.

Sec. 423.003.AA OFFENSE: ILLEGAL USE OF UNMANNED AIRCRAFT TO CAPTURE IMAGE. A(a) A person commits an offense 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 on the individual or property captured in the image.

Cities and the drone operator can be sued if a person’s constitutional rights have been violated by the illegal use of a drone.

“This is just another tool that we can utilize to assist us in protecting and serving this great community,” Longrigg said.

Governmental personnel and citizens can use drones as long as they register it with the FAA pass a test and comply with the FAA regulations and have a Remote Pilot Certificate.