Drone program in the works for Travis County parks staff

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The latest in parks management could soon be hovering overhead.

Travis County commissioners approved Jan. 22 the implementation of an unmanned aerial system. The program—which will be managed by county parks staff—includes two drones as well as Federal Aviation Administration-mandated training and licensing for four staff members. Drone uses related to law enforcement are not part of the program as approved Tuesday.

Commissioners approved the $10,000 program on consent without discussion. A general parks donation fund will cover the costs, according to county documents.

County park land management and park forestry staff requested the drones in order to capture aerial footage of inaccessible locations. From calculating flood damage to monitoring wildfires or prescribed burns, the goal of the program, as stated in county documents, is to more thoroughly manage hundreds of acres of green space, flood-prone parks and flood buyout properties.

Recent flooding events in Travis County highlight the need for better information and quicker access to flooded and remote park areas.

Staff have reported delays in flood-damage assessments or hiking for hours to remote areas to monitor prescribed burns.

Drone use is expected to be safer and more efficient in these instances—reducing staff time, increasing asset protection and protecting personal safety.

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  1. Sounds like Double Standard. We the public can’t fly our drones over parks, fires, or floods yet the parks people can?

    • There is no double-standard at all. Parks uses the drones to enhance management, and you need to fly your toy helicopter over the parks for….? Parks is accountable for their use and you….?

    • I fly my drone in Travis County parks all the time. Rangers and staff have driven by me several times with barely a glance. I’ve flown in Zilker park with no issues. Fires and floods are generally emergency situations. Can’t imagine why they wouldn’t want civilians flying their drones overhead when they’re fighting fires or performing high-water rescues.

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Taylor Jackson Buchanan
Taylor Jackson Buchanan is the editor for the Round Rock/Pflugerville/Hutto edition of Community Impact Newspaper. She has a bachelor's and master's degree from The University of Texas.
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