Imagine relaxing in your backyard, and then a drone hovers over your property. Just when you think it's gone, it whirls back again. Your first guess is that someone is spying on you or criminals are scouting your property. Since you want to get rid of the drone, your first instinct is to grab a gun and shoot it. Before you execute your plan, read through to understand if what you're about to do is a good solution or not.
Other than military and government purposes, most drones in the US are used for commercial activities by businesses. Professional pilots use these drones and avoid private properties unless they’re flying across them or making a delivery to the property owner. Recreational drones may fly over these properties for leisure purposes. As a property owner, shooting down a drone may seem like the quickest solution to have it gone, but it’s illegal.
Shooting a drone flying over your property in the sky is complex. Most drones are fragile, and when hit by bullets, they will shatter. Their small sizes make it hard for you to target them, especially from a controlled environment. In such a case, the bullets may cause injury to people and property. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulates and oversees everything related to civil aviation, including drones, under US code 32, Title 18.
Shooting a drone is a violation of US Code 32. The Code aims to protect drones from any damage and destruction. The penalty for shooting at drones as per US code 32 is a fine and 20-year imprisonment. Although you may own the property, you don't own the airspace above it.
Since the FAA classifies drones as aircraft and the federal law prohibits the shooting of any plane, committing this offense will make you face charges. In case someone gets injured in the process, you will be liable. If the drone you shoot at falls down and causes damage to humans or property, you will be liable to the drone owner and the injured person.
If a drone flies over your property unintentionally, it's understandable. Maybe the operator is still learning how to operate the device, and they flew it too close to your property. When this happens over and over, it becomes a nuisance. Since you now know that shooting the drone is not an option, below are solutions to the problem.
The first step you should take is to talk to the drone operator. It could be a neighbor unaware that the drone is crossing over to your property, especially if no barrier separates properties. Alternatively, they may have flown over your property because you've never complained to them about it before.
To reach a mutual understanding, inform them about your concerns and ask them to stop flying the drone over your property. Alternatively, you can agree on the days or times they can pass their drone over your property.
Since drones use a remote, how they fly and the operator determines the direction they take. If it's flying recklessly over your property, take video evidence and show it to the owner.
If the drone operation persists, you can present these recordings to the FAA or state authorities as proof of the disturbance and noise that the drone is causing you. These authorities will assess if the drone violates any FAA guidelines with your evidence.
You can take legal actions against the drone operator if they've violated any law. These laws include "peeping tom" and privacy invasion laws. In California, for example, the "peeping tom" law prevents people from creeping on someone else's private property. If you live in Arizona, you can take legal action if the individual didn't seek your permission before flying their drone over your property.
Invasion of privacy also happens if the drone has a telescope that provides a better view of your property. With the evidence you have, you can talk to your lawyer to determine the charges against the drone operator. Those guilty of "peeping tom" and privacy invasion charges pay a fine of about $1,000 and receive a 6month jail term.
Low-flying drones are also dangerous to people and animals within proximity because they have propellers. These propellers have guards that improve safety, but their blades can cause injury if they hit body parts. If the drone caused any damage to people or property within the home, and there's evidence to back that up, they will be held liable.
In general, you can take legal if the drone is:
When you decide to take legal action against the drone operator, some factors can make your case unjustifiable. They include:
Current Property Laws: The standard principle previously held that property owners owned the land below the property and the sky above. This principle no longer applies. Today, property owners don't own the airspace above their property. A drone can fly above your property, but the space it flies on isn't your property.
Trespass laws: To determine if the drone was trespassing, you'll need to know any law your state or locality has regarding the "buffer zone." This zone is the air space property owners own and is applicable in some states. You may find an ordinance or statute limiting drone usage below certain heights. However, if there's no limitation in your locality, your case may be unjustifiable.
The drone's purpose: Private property has been respected and given privacy rights over the past years. However, the United States Supreme Court held through several instances that property owners don't have reasonable expectations of privacy resulting from photographs, videos, or surveillance from aircraft, including drones. These instances include:
Self-Defense principle: You may attack a drone and justify your actions by claiming self-defense. According to the law, self-defense mainly involves protecting a person, and you should face imminent danger to justify your reaction to a threat. It may be complex to explain the threat level in a self-defense situation involving a drone.
Local laws: Shooting a drone also violates local laws against firing firearms within city limits. In Nebraska, for example, you cannot discharge a firearm in counties with metropolitan areas or towards people and structures. In many states, it's illegal to fire guns randomly into the sky. You may face charges such as criminal mischief for such behaviors.
Most states have laws regarding drone usage. In Arkansas, it is illegal to use drones for video voyeurism or to invade privacy. In Florida, it is unlawful to use drones for surveillance purposes if it breaches the privacy of property owners. California doesn't allow the usage of drones to observe and document a person without their consent. Texas prohibits use of drones to take images of private property. You can check the drone laws specific to your state to know how the law protects you and your property.
Once you know the rules within your state, you will know the steps to ensure that your property and family are safe from flying drones. It will also provide you with a course of action within legal bounds.
Consider putting up a notice over your property. The statement should clearly state that you don't allow drones to fly over your property. It should be visible from hundreds of feet. Ensure that you put it somewhere that can be easily seen, such as your rooftop, treetop, attic, or chimney. Although a drone may still fly over your property, the operator will avoid flying it low or hovering around.
A drone disabler app has detection systems that track unexpected drones. It easily recognizes and picks noises coming from drones. The app also calculates the drone's exact position using electromagnetic waves that cut signals and receive a reflection from the drone. It's a suitable method of detecting drones that fly over your property at night.
This technique uses nets to capture and bring down drones without causing any damage to them. The anti-drone drone carries a 3m by 2m net that intercepts and captures a drone. Through this method, you can bring down a drone posing a threat, and you won't have to face legal actions from the drone operator due to destroying their toy.
Though it's clear that it's illegal to shoot down drones flying over your private property in the US, there are alternative methods of ensuring that you keep yourself and your property safe. Even if the drone operator may not be acting reasonably, you must stay calm to avoid further damage and liabilities. Taking the law into your own hands will make you cause damage to the drone or people within the location, costing you penalties or imprisonment. Consider contacting your state authorities to prevent causing damage to the drone, destroying your property, or injuring people.