Frequently Asked Questions About Drones / Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in Hunting

Except with permits issued by Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, the use of drones to hunt, drive, capture, take, count or photograph any wildlife is unlawful. This includes locating wounded animals as well.

Permits required from our department are an Aerial Management Permit (AMP) and a Land Owner Authorization (LOA). Department rules are adopted under the framework and guidelines of the Federal Airborne Hunting Act.

Under federal law it is a violation to use an aircraft for any of these activities unless a permit is issued by the respective state. Federal guidelines specify the states may only issue these permits for the management of wildlife such as Trap Transport and Transplant (TTT) or depredation species and certain predator species. At no time would recreational or sport hunting be lawful and violation of these rules is a Parks And Wildlife Class A misdemeanor and under certain instances a Federal Lacy Act Violation.

Some useful definitions include, from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Code, include:

  • "Hunt" means capture, trap, take, or kill, or an attempt to capture, trap, take, or kill.
  • "Catch" means take or kill and includes an attempt to take or kill.
  • "Take," except as otherwise provided by this code, means collect, hook, hunt, net, shoot, or snare, by any means or device, and includes an attempt to take or to pursue in order to take.

The relevant definition from the Texas Administrative Code is:

  • “Aircraft” means a mechanical or other device used for flight in the air (TAC §65.151)

And the offense itself as listed in the Texas Administrative Code (TAC §65.152) is:

  • A person (which includes a pilot, applicant, gunner, observer, or Subagent) commits an offense if:..the person counts, photographs, relocates, captures, hunts, or takes or attempts to count, photograph, relocate, capture, hunt, or take from an aircraft any wildlife or exotic animals other than wildlife or exotic animals authorized by the AMP and LOA.

Biennial Report for Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Usage

This document below is meant to satisfy the reporting requirements as listed in Texas Government Code Sec. 423.008, relating to the reporting of unmanned aircraft systems operations by Texas law enforcement agencies.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Law Enforcement Division Game Wardens and State Parks Division Police Officers operate Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). All operators are FAA-licensed remote pilots.  The TPWD UAS Program uses unmanned aircraft to accomplish TPWD Department and Division missions and goals of the conservation of natural resources and protection of human life and property.

Per current Texas Government Code Sec. 423.008:(a) Not earlier than January 1 and not later than January 15 of each odd-numbered year, each state law enforcement agency and each county or municipal law enforcement agency located in a county or municipality, as applicable, with a population greater than 150,000, that used or operated an unmanned aircraft during the preceding 24 months shall issue a written report to the governor, the lieutenant governor, and each member of the legislature and shall:

(1)  retain the report for public viewing; and

(2)  post the report on the law enforcement agency's publicly accessible website, if one exists.

(b)  The report must include:

(1)  the number of times an unmanned aircraft was used, organized by date, time, location, and the types of incidents and types of justification for the use;

(2)  the number of criminal investigations aided using an unmanned aircraft and a description of how the unmanned aircraft aided each investigation;

(3)  the number of times an unmanned aircraft was used for a law enforcement operation other than a criminal investigation, the dates and locations of those operations, and a description of how the unmanned aircraft aided each operation;

(4)  the type of information collected on an individual, residence, property, or area that was not the subject of a law enforcement operation and the frequency of the collection of this information; and

(5)  the total cost of acquiring, maintaining, repairing, and operating or otherwise using each unmanned aircraft for the preceding 24 months.

The following document and table contain the required information, as logged and entered by each TPWD UAS pilot, from all 2017-2018 TPWD law enforcement UAS operations, followed by the total cost of acquiring, maintaining, repairing, and operating or otherwise using each unmanned aircraft for the preceding 24 months.

2021 2022 UAS Report in Adobe PDF format