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Can You Fly Drones Over Private Property? (2022 Guide to Flying Over Houses)

Updated in 2022 by Paul Posea
private property

As a drone hobbyist, you may start flying over your property but later test the drone's range in other areas. These may include private properties and houses. Many private property owners are concerned about their safety whenever drones fly. There are places where federal and state laws restrict drones from flying over. Before you fly your drone, it's necessary to understand if these restricted areas include private property and houses. In addition, knowing the drone regulations over personal property within your locality will prevent you from violating the law and facing dire consequences.

Can You Legally Fly Drones Over Private Property in the US?

You must know all the laws and regulations governing drone operations in various areas of different states because what might be legal in one state may be illegal in another.

You can legally fly a drone over private property and houses in the US, provided you're not invading the owners' privacy, damaging property, or putting people's lives at risk. The Federal Aviation Association (FAA) controls the airspace above 400 feet and allows drone operations in that space. 

There are state and local laws that regulate drone operations in individual states. The FAA is a federal agency, and all laws it enforces are superior and override all state laws. The airspace comprises two parts; the controlled and uncontrolled airspace. The uncontrolled airspace, which the FAA regulates, is the space beyond 400 feet. The FAA restricts Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) from flying in the controlled airspace. State and local laws regulate how drones can fly in controlled airspace. 

Some of the FAA regulations that you should follow when flying drones over private property include:

  • You shouldn't fly a drone at night unless it has adequate lighting.
  • The drone should weigh 55 pounds and below unless it's certified by a community-based organization (CBO)
  • You shouldn't fly drones above moving people or vehicles.
  • You cannot fly close to other UAS or interfere with their movement.
  • You must not fly above 100mph.
  • Don't interfere with emergency and rescue operations.
  • Don't recklessly operate your UAS.

Some US States’ Regulations on Flying Drones over Private Property

California

California has laws that regulate uncontrolled airspace. In August 2015, the State Assembly passed a law prohibiting drone flights over private property as they are a trespass. According to this legislation, you'll face privacy infringement charges if you fly a drone over personal property without the owner's consent.

Texas

According to state laws, you cannot fly drones over any private property in Texas. It's against the law to use drones for surveillance of personal property. However, law enforcement officers, research professors, and employees of power or gas companies can fly drones over private properties. They can fly drones over these properties for academic research, emergency or rescue missions, and surveying.

In these situations, the drone operators can capture images, and videos, provided no person is visible in the footage and photographs. If you capture images to conduct surveillance, you'll be guilty of a Class C misdemeanor which includes these offenses:

  • Taking photos for surveillance purposes.
  • Maintaining possession of the pictures.

In both instances, you'll pay a fine not exceeding $500. However, you can defend yourself if you destroy the photos as soon as the drone captured them without distributing them to someone else.

You'll face a Class B Misdemeanor if you are guilty of capturing images to disclose, distribute, or display. This offense is punishable by a fine not exceeding $2,000 and a 180-day jail term.

In Class B and Class C offenses, capturing, possessing, distributing, and displaying images are separate offenses. For the victims, civil remedies are available for photos taken without their consent, up to $10,000 as per Section 423.006 of the Government Code.

Georgia

The local laws in Georgia prohibit the flying of drones over private property. It violates the owners' privacy rights, and those who do so commit a crime. If found, you'll face a trespass charge.

Oregon

In Oregon, a drone operator cannot recklessly fly over private property and cause injury to the property and its occupants. The state law prohibits drone operations over individual personal property more than once. A drone can only fly once, and a property owner has the right to stop the drone operator from flying over their house.

What Happens If You Fly a Drone Over Someone’s House?

A homeowner has the right to file a civil or criminal complaint against you for flying a drone over their house. However, this depends on drone flying laws and regulations in your locality. If your state prohibits flying drones over homes, homeowners can file a complaint. In such a situation, the state law enforcement officers can fine you and confiscate your drone.

If there are no laws governing drone operations in your state, someone can still take legal action against you for:

  • Invasion of privacy
  • Nuisance
  • Trespass

For someone to file a civil law against you, they must provide physical evidence in the form of photos and videos. The evidence will show the drone's movement and height, which will help law enforcers in the case. As the drone operator, you'll provide GPS and drone data to verify the drone's path. 

Invasion of privacy prevents homeowners from enjoying their privacy rights. Sometimes images of people may be used by film crews without any violation of the individual's rights for the following purposes:

  • News reports
  • Public interest
  • Information and research.

A news crew may be flying a drone to film a locality to get footage of various neighborhoods, and it may capture a private property. Here, individual images aren't for commercial purposes. However, if the crew uses these images for non-commercial yet permissible reasons, the owner's privacy rights limit the use of the photos. These rights include the right to avoid disclosure of private information.

Invasion of privacy happens if a drone films people undressing in their houses by hovering around windows. The homeowner is inside their private space, and the drone acts like a creep, which is a privacy invasion. In addition, the drone is operating in a restricted area. However, if the individual is on a balcony, the case is complicated. When on a patio, an individual is already publicly visible to others, including a film crew.

Law enforcement officers determine invasion of privacy based on the following:

  • Whether the drone's hover may have given the operator the chance to use it to record, listen to, capture, or view people on the property.
  • Whether the drone operator took actions demonstrating the desire to use the drone on infringement of the property owners' privacy rights.

Nuisance, in this case, is primarily the noise that the drone makes, which prevents property owners from enjoying their property rights in silence.

In other instances, a property owner may file trespass charges against you. An aerial trespass happens when a drone flies below the required height and close to someone's house without the owner's consent, thus causing interference with the use and enjoyment of that property. To determine whether the drone's operations caused such interference, the law enforcement officers will review the following: 

  • The amount of time the drone operated over the house.
  • The drone's altitude from the ground.
  • The number of times the drone has operated over the same house or property.
  • Whether the drone took videos, photos, or audio recordings over the property.
  • Whether the property owner has previously and regularly permitted drone operations over the property.
  • Whether the drone's operations caused physical injury to people, animals, or property.
  • The drone operator's purpose for flying over the property.

Can You Fly Drones Over Private Property in the UK?

To fly drones in the UK, you must adhere to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) laws. You can fly drones over private property in the UK provided:

  • You have the owner's consent.
  • Your drone is below 25kg.  If the drone is over 25kg, you should apply for authorization from the CAA.
  • You don't fly above 400 feet from the ground.
  • You fly above 50 meters from the property and people at all times.
  • You don't cause interference to other UAS, hot air balloons, and aircraft using the same airspace. You'll cause threats to lives if you do, leading to a substantial fine and a 5-year jail term. To avoid causing interference, use an Unmanned Aircraft observer to help guide you without using binoculars.
  • Your drone must be within your sight at all times.
  • You don't take pictures and videos that go against privacy laws.
  • If your drone has a camera, you should avoid flying over private property with gatherings.

Conclusion

With technological advancements come intrusion, trespass, and privacy issues. As people embrace drone usage for recreational purposes, drone operators should follow set laws and regulations. These include federal and local laws that govern drone operations over private property, including farms and houses. As a drone operator, you must understand these laws to avoid confiscation of your UAS, fines, liabilities, and imprisonment.

author-paul-posea-picture
Hi, I'm Paul.
A big drone enthusiast, reviewing, comparing and writing about drones since 2015. I'm all about helping people enjoy and even monetize their hobby.
paul posea
Paul Posea
Hi, I'm a long-time drone reviewer and I hope my articles and comparisons on this site as well as Dronesgator's youtube channel are of as much help as possible.

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