Estimated reading time: 13 minutes
If you’re concerned about drones flying in your property’s airspace, and you think they’re compromising your privacy, then you’ve surely come to the right place to know how to deal with such annoying drone flyers.
Whether casual hobbyists or commercial organizations are controlling the drones, intrusion in private residential-owned spaces is possible. So, you need to know what to do if you’re experiencing this.
A question that might pop in your mind is, can I shoot down a drone flying over my property? Let me answer that question.
No, you cannot shoot down a drone flying over your private space. It is against the federal law to use arms against unmanned aircraft systems following rules imposed by the FAA and can be punishable as a criminal felony. You can involve federal authorities and take legal action instead of such a reckless act.
But that’s not it. If you want to know how you can handle this situation and protect your privacy through legal actions and civil lawsuits, make sure you read this article till the very end.
Here is a great short video:
Table of contents:
- What Are the Laws and Regulations for Drone Flight?
- Can a Drone Fly Over My Property?
- What Are the Problems with Drones Flying Over Your Property?
- Can I Shoot Down a Drone?
- Incidents Involving Drone Shooting:
What Are the Laws and Regulations for Drone Flight?
The FAA has placed strict drone rules and regulations for both hobbyist and commercial drone flyers. Failure to abide by these rules may result in drone pilots facing severe civil lawsuits that might even forbid them from flying drones.
Let’s take a look at some of the major rules associated with drone flight so you know your rights in a legal situation.
Registration of Drone:
Registering your drone is incredibly important. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a casual drone hobbyist or a commercial drone flying organization; make sure you get your drone registered as soon as you receive it.
If your drone weighs more than 0.55 pounds or 250 kilograms and is flying exclusively under recreational consumer drone flyers, it needs to be registered.
You need to keep a copy of the registration with you.
There is a 400 feet height limit imposed by the FAA on your drones in uncontrolled airspace which is also known as Class G airspace.
However, for commercial drone flights, this is an exception.
As commercial drones require more paperwork and registration phases to pass, the height limitation is omitted, and such drones can cross the 400 feet limit, but only in Class G airspace.
Authorization for Flying Controlled Airspace:
In controlled airspaces that include Class B, C, D, and E, you’re going to require drone flight authorization. This authorization is mostly required for commercial drone flight organizations.
There are a few methods to obtain this authorization.
You can get authorization to fly your drone in controlled airspace through DroneZone, LAANC, or by contacting FAA and getting a written agreement for some fixed flying sites.
If you have this particular authorization, you will be able to legally take your drone to the air without endangering the FAA’s privacy and control and other government flight control organizations in federal airspace.
Keeping Drone in Visual Line of Sight:
The Federal Aviation Administration advises that all drone flyers keep their drones close by and in their visual line of sight to easily control the drones and ensure safety and protection of the environment.
Another important rule associated with drone flight visual line of sight is only to fly drones at night if your drones are equipped with night-vision or LED lights for easy tracking.
Do Not Interfere With Manned Aircraft Paths:
Airports and Military Premises are considered restricted airspaces. Therefore, a flight above such susceptible areas is completely illegal and should be avoided at all costs.
Especially if you’re flying a drone and it accidentally crosses paths with manned aircraft, it is advisable to shift your path or land the drone as soon as possible because interference with manned aircraft paths can cause irreparable damage.
Flying in Commercial or Residential Areas:
What most of you are concerned with are FAA flight rules in commercial and residential areas.
In these areas, drone flight is not restricted, but a few measures need to be taken.
The drone flight needs to be careful and not so reckless that it might endanger the public’s safety.
And at the same time, the drones need to maintain a safe distance from the privacy of homeowners and commercial landowners.
Can a Drone Fly Over My Property?
If you’re a neighbor who’s recently got a quadcopter drone and are running around flying it everywhere all the time, then you must be tired of the noise and intrusion the drone is causing.
So, the question arises, can a drone fly over your property? Well, it isn’t straightforward, really.
The FAA has allowed consumer and commercial drones flight access over residential areas, and your property also comes under this category.
However, only if the drone pilot flies the drone according to the FAA’s flight rules and makes sure the drone doesn’t endanger the lives of the residents will they be allowed to fly the drone over residential property.
You might be thinking, if I have the ownership right of the property, why can drones fly over my house without my permission.
The ownership works on a land basis. The FAA owns the airspace above your house.
Therefore, even if you don’t like drones being flown over your house, there isn’t much you can do if the drones are flying completely according to the regulations put forth by the FAA.
What Are the Problems with Drones Flying Over Your Property?
Now, the fact that drones can be legally flown over your property doesn’t mean that pilots are above the law and they can do anything. Here are some cases where drone flight can be considered illegal over landowner premises.
Recording Private Activities:
If a person near your owned property has a drone and flies around in the area with a camera, you must keep an eye out for you and your family’s private activities.
The drone might be recording your private activities with the camera integrated into the drone.
Well, without the shadow of a doubt, this is a criminal offense, and it is strictly against the FAA rules for the pilot.
Flying Under 50 Meters of Your Property:
In residential areas, the FAA suggests that drones need to be flown over 50 feet away from individuals and their properties.
The maximum height limit is 400 feet above sea level.
If the drone is controlled by the pilot flies under 50 meters of your house’s roof, it can be considered trespassing of private property and is not allowed in most states of the US and around the world.
Damaging Your Property:
Another case where drone flight can be considered a crime and a civil offense against your property is when the drone flying in your property’s airspace deviates from its path due to a lack of piloting skills.
Drones aren’t toys, and their propellers can be damaging to some extent. If a drone crashes or falls on your property, it might cause some damage to your equipment or, worst-case scenario, to your expensive vehicles.
Injuring a Person:
Trespassing of property can lead to many problems.
One of the biggest problems can be drones causing injury to you, your friends, family, or a general individual.
Consumer drones can weigh from 5 to 8 pounds and even more sometimes. If these drones go out of control, not only can they damage your property, but they can also injure a person.
This injury mostly occurs due to bad piloting skills.
Residential areas aren’t warzones, and reconnaissance or monitoring isn’t necessary. If your neighbors are acting too nosy with their camera drones, it could be a cause of concern.
Drones acting suspiciously can also be considered a big problem. It would help if you did not compromise on your privacy.
In such a case, you shouldn’t back down. You need to call out your neighbors and tell them to stop immediately.
How to Deal With Illegal Drone Activity Near Your Property?
In case you’ve noticed any intrusion of privacy by a drone owned by your neighbor, and you want them to stop, the first act should always be trying to defuse the situation by talking and discussing the problem.
Ensure that the activity is illegal and is not abiding by the rules of flight provides by the Federal Aviation Administration.
You can go to your neighbor and ask them to discuss over a cup of tea, hostility is not the answer.
Try talking to them about the problems. They could range from nuisance to property damage concerns and even privacy intrusion worries.
You should ask them to stop politely and try to reach a steady conclusion.
How to Take Legal Actions Against Drone Flight Over Private Space?
So, you’ve seen suspicious drone behavior near your private property, and talking doesn’t help.
Well, you should not let the matter rest. But you might be thinking, what can you do to put a stop to it?
In such cases, you need to make sure that you don’t act hastily and make a wrong decision.
You should know your rights, and keep a safe distance while finding the proper legal action you can take against the perpetrator.
The most common and ideal way of dealing with an annoying neighbor and their reckless drone is filing a lawsuit and letting the federal authorities know about the situation.
If you’re experiencing trespass of your private property due to a drone in your neighborhood, then you’ll be allowed to file a trespass lawsuit against the pilot of the drone.
According to the trespassing lawsuit, the possessor of the drone will be fined and prosecuted for their act of trespass against your property. This is the ideal way of dealing with a heated situation.
Illegal Surveillance Lawsuit:
It is possible that your house and the people living inside are being monitored, taken pictures of, and recorded by some creep living a few blocks away from your home.
The best way to deal with this is through the invasion of the privacy act, which is also known as the illegal surveillance lawsuit.
The suspect will be fined and can go to jail for illegal monitoring of private activities.
Personal Property Damage Lawsuit:
The Personal Property Damage Lawsuit or the Limited Damages Act allows you to file a lawsuit against any person that might cause any financial or physical damage to you or your property.
From suing the drone holder for causing financial distress to ask for their prosecution due to harm to individuals, this act gives complete liberty to the victim to seek justice from the law and federal organizations.
Can I Shoot Down a Drone?
To avoid any legal action, you should not shoot down a drone even if it is flying illegally over your property, let it fly in accordance to the drone laws imposed by the FAA.
The use of arms in public violates several protection and safety laws in the United States and worldwide.
Therefore, you should never opt for shooting down a drone if it trespasses your private property.
According to Aircraft Sabotage (18 U.S.C. 32), it is a criminal offense if you shoot down any aircraft flying in the FAA-owned airspace.
This airspace, as we said, includes your property, and drones are also unmanned “aircraft.”
In case if you do shoot down a drone under normal circumstances, you can face fines, prosecution, and even serve jail time for not only firing a gun
You can also endanger the lives of the public since UAS drones can catch fire due to Lipo batteries.
How to Shoot a Drone Down?
If you feel that your family and property are unsafe and you need to take immediate action, shooting down a drone could be the right solution, but only on the rarest of occasions. It would help if you tried to avoid it at all costs.
The best choice of gun that would cause the least damage to external properties and not endanger any lives would be a shotgun.
The Number 8 Birdshot releases tiny pellets that will surely knock down any hostile drone.
You can also opt for a slingshot or in emergency cases, a rock, so that the chances of injury are miniscule. This will make sure you avoid any legal action from the drone pilot side.
Incidents Involving Drone Shooting:
If you’re still not quite sure about avoiding hostile dealing methods and shooting down drones, let’s take a look at some of the drone shooting scenarios that have taken place in the US and how they’ve played out for both parties legally.
- Meredith vs. Boggs:
One of the first cases of this kind that came into court was between William Meredith and John Boggs.
William allegedly shot down the UAS drone being flown by John Boggs that flew over his private property.
Boggs filed a lawsuit claiming $1500 from William for breaking down his property with a gun because, according to him, he was flying in federal airspace and not Meredith’s owned airspace.
The court could not favor either party because it couldn’t be decided whether Meredith or the FAA owned the property.
However, it was decided to prosecute William Meredith for firing an arm and endangering public lives.
- New Jersey Drone Shooting:
In 2014, a New Jersey man had illegal weapon usage charges pressed against him because he shot down a drone that was flying over his owned property.
The court decided that the act of shooting the drone down was harmful to the crowd around and could’ve caused fatal damage.
That is why you should avoid firing guns at drones in the sky.
- Drone Slayer:
A man in Kentucky, who’s self-proclaimed to be the “Drone Slayer,” was prosecuted for shooting down a drone that was hovering over his home space.
According to him, the drone was hovering over and monitoring his young daughter.
After the witness confirmed that the shooter was telling the truth, the pressed charges were lifted and the “Drone Slayer” was freed from the prosecution. So, it depends upon what kind of situation you’re in.
No matter what you might do, it is best if you avoid shooting down a drone using a firearm because that can cause a lot of legal problems for you and your family.
The use of legal action is the right decision in such illegal drone intrusion situations. The authorities will deal with all kinds of suspects and criminals trying to disturb the peace in your area.
I hope that you could learn a lot from this guide. Hopefully, you’ll know what to do when an angry neighbor tries shooting your drone down, or a reckless pilot tries to invade your privacy with their drone by dealing with them lawfully.