Flying A Drone Over Private Property – Rules And Regulations

Wondering if it’s legal to fly your drone over your neighbours house? Here’s a guide on flying a drone over private property – rules and regulations. 

Drones have gained popularity rapidly over the past few years, being used for both commercial and recreational purposes. There are several rules and regulations revolving around flying them and it’s good to know about them before trying to pilot a drone yourself. 

Although you might start with flying the drone over your own property initially, you’d soon want to start testing its range by taking it for a spin down the street or around your neighborhood. 

This means you are likely going to be flying over your neighbors’ properties and flying over businesses and other organizations. Is this illegal? Will this cause you to get a fine? How do you navigate your drone safely without harming people or breaking laws?

These are some of the questions this article will answer so you can fly your drone safely and stress-free. 

Flying A Drone Over Private Property – Rules And Regulations

Is it illegal to fly a drone over someone’s private property?

To be honest, this is a pretty complex question. On one hand, flying a drone a few inches the blades of grass over someone’s property clearly implicates the property rights of that person. 

However, someone flying a drone at 300 feet above someone’s property would clearly not implicate their property rights. So where do we draw the line?

In 1946, the US Supreme Court handed down a decision, US vs Causby. In that case, the Causbys, who were chicken farmers, sued the federal government because the federal government was flying over their property at low altitudes. 

The case made it all the way to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court said that the Causbys actually had a property right in the airspace above their land up to a certain height. This case, for the first time in history, established a right-of-property in the air above one’s land. And more interestingly, the US Court of Federal Claims said that the Causbys were entitled to damages by any flights flying up to 365 feet above their property. 

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However, despite the history, the fact of the matter is that there are no federal laws currently surrounding flying your drone over private properties at low altitudes. This is because the FAA only really regulates airspace higher than 400 feet. 

That said, certain places have passed local and state laws prohibiting flight of drones over private properties. So it would be a good idea to check the local area laws before getting started as a drone pilot. 

Even if there are no laws or regulations in your area, it is always good to apply common sense while flying a drone. Not everything that is legal is necessarily the right thing to do. 

Can someone destroy your drone for flying over their property?

In almost all circumstances, no, a person cannot destroy a drone that flies over their property. The reason for this can be explained with a simple analogy. 

If a person were to ride a motorcycle onto someone’s land, would the land owner be entitled to go out with a baseball bat and smash the motorcycle to bits? The answer is clearly no. 

The motorcycle owner would be able to sue the land owner for damaging his property. Yes, the land owner could sue him for trespassing, but on balance, the person who destroyed the motorcycle would get the raw end of that deal. 

In the same way, if someone were to destroy your drone for flying over their property, you would be able to sue them for the damages done to the drone. The FAA also states that shooting down a drone is a federal crime under 18 U.S.C. 32. 

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While the owners of a private property can inhibit take-off and landing on their property, they have no legal authority and no legal right to inhibit you flying over their property. Now, if you are operating form their property, they can inhibit that. But they cannot inhibit you operating from outside the property, such as from the sidewalk or the roof of your own building.

Flying over people and vehicles at lower altitudes

When it comes to flying over people and vehicles, the FAA recognises that there are various categories of drones, four to be specific, and has linked certain regulations to each. 

Most common public use drones that fall under category 1, which includes drones that weight less than 0.55 pounds, or less than 250 grams. 

For category 1 drones, as long as they have some way to ensure that the rotating parts of the drone won’t cause lacerations on human skin, they are allowed to fly over people and vehicles. 

However, this only means they can briefly fly over them. If you want to perform sustained flight, or hover for a long time, over moving vehicles or open air assemblies of people, there are some additional restrictions and will require the drone to have a UAS Remote ID. 

When your drone is remote ID capable, it will share data about the drone while in flight, including location, identity, altitude, etc.

Categories 2 and 3 consist of drones that weigh over 0.55 pounds but under 55 pounds. With these drones, it is a little more complicated to fly and hover over people, but the FAA is creating compliance pathways that do make it possible. 

For category 4 drones, with very stringent rules and approval processes, it will be virtually impossible, at least in the near future, to get approval for the air-worthiness certification process. 

Conclusion

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With drones, or UAVs, gaining popularity rapidly in various fields of work, you might want to try your hand at making money by flying a drone. Maybe you want to take stunning videos of hotels and resorts and sell it to them for promotional purposes, or maybe you want to use your drone to gather agricultural data, or maybe even record videos at events from a new and exciting perspective. 

Whatever the nature of your work is, if you’re using a drone to generate income, there is a good chance that it involves flying over other people’s private property. 

While there are no federal laws that are currently in place drones being flown under the altitude of 400 feet, there could be local and state laws that come in to play in the area that you wish to fly in. So it is always good practice to check these laws once before taking flight. 

When it comes to flying over people and vehicles, there are a few newer regulations that have come into action in 2021 which are based on various categories of drones and how they are flown over people and moving vehicles. So it is recommended to do a knowledge update on your license if you haven’t already done it and go through the new regulations on the FAA website. 

Besides, in the larger scheme of things, drones becoming popular is still a relatively recent trend. And laws take time to come in to action. Just because something is not illegal does not necessarily make it okay to do. One should always apply common sense while piloting a drone. Fly with respect to others and their property.

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