Federal Court Rules Houston Search Group Can Use Drones

Court overrules a cease and desist order from the Federal Aviation Administration.


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Back in February, Texas EquuSearch got an email from an employee at the FAA ordering them to stop using drones in their searches immediately. The group stopped and filed a lawsuit, which has now been dismissed after a federal appeals court ruled that the employee overstepped the FAA’s authority because agency rules on the use of drones have not been finalized.

Texas EquuSearch Director Tim Miller says drones have been a critical part of the search process for several years.

“Instead of sending a whole team out there, we go out there with just two or three of us with a drone airplane. We go ahead and fly the areas, many times we’ve gotten lucky and found the victim and brought closure to the families,” Miller said.

Miller says drones are most helpful when the person they’re searching for is believed to be deceased. But they also use drones to map out areas for live searches. The FAA is expected to release its rules for drone use by September 2015. Miller says he’s hopeful the rules will accomodate humanitarian uses of drones.

“But as long as we have the green light until September of next year, we’re going to use that drone every opportunity that we have to use it when it’s going to be a valuable resource,” Miller said.

Miller says since February, he has had to turn down half a dozen requests for help because of the litigation over drone use.


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Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Executive Producer for News

Laurie Johnson leads daily news coverage for HPM. She helps reporters craft and sharpen their stories on tight deadlines, with the aim of getting the most relevant and current information into local newscasts. Laurie is a native Houstonian who started her career at Houston Public Media in 2002. She is...

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