Lawmakers to target drones, safeguard privacy - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

Lawmakers to target drones, safeguard privacy

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State lawmakers may decide to ban drone surveillance of private property in Texas. A University of Texas professor fears that bill could hurt the research being done on those eyes in the sky. The university has an $80,000 drone that has been used by engineering professor Todd Humphreys to prove that the security of drones can be compromised.

"We showed that you can hack into a GPS system of one of these drones and like a tractor beam you can bring it down out of the air."

But, using that technology could be prevented in the future. State Representative Lance Gooden (R, District 4) has introduced a bill called 'The Texas Privacy Act' that would ban drone surveillance of private property by everyone from aviation hobbyists to law enforcement.

"The drones that are coming out today, they're very small. They're cheaper. In 4-5 years everyone can have these," Rep. Gooden told FOX 7. He says the bill is necessary because of the growing privacy concerns regarding unmanned aircraft.

"A land owner in my district brought this to me because his neighbor was checking on his cattle with a drone and that's great, there's nothing wrong with that, but the drone would find it's way over my constituent's property and it would just kind of hover there."

Humphreys believes the bill goes too far. "I think it's definitely been an overreaction. First of all we don't have the problem here and maybe the problem never materializes."

He says that some lawmakers don't fully understand the work being done by so called hobbyists.

"Much of the research we to here and at other universities around the country depends in large part to the video, we're coming up with different ways to use video to improve navigation security of drones."

Gooden says the goal isn't to cut back on research, but to defend the right to privacy. "This is to protect Texans from prying eyes that are doing so without permission."

The bill would make it a Class C misdemeanor to use a drone to take pictures or video of private property. The bill does have some exceptions for law enforcement with a search warrant and for property near the Texas-Mexico border.

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