Frequently Asked Questions
In this section we'll answer all questions related to the above article:
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.
But before you get too trigger happy and shoot the drone down, it’s unfortunaely illegal.
Of course, like with all things related to the law, there nuances to this. Which we’ll go into in this article.
In most places, it's legal to fly drones over houses.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) manages all the airspace above houses. The space under 400 feet is free for drones and doesn't need FAA permission. But, if a drone flies lower than the trees or a house's roof, the person flying it might get into trouble.
Remember, drone laws change from place to place. In some states, people own the air up to 83 feet above their house. In others, there's no set height. Also, local homeowner and neighborhood groups might have their own rules. Just like some groups don't allow certain yard decorations, they might also ban drones from flying over homes.
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.
You might think about blocking the drone's signal instead.
This means using a special tool that sends out signals to confuse the drone. The drone will then either return to where it came from or land right there.
Blocking the drone's signal won't make it crash like shooting it would, but it will stop the drone from bothering you.
But news flash, that’s also unfotunately illegal in the USA.
The Federal Communications Commission, or FCC, says in the Communications Act of 1934 that you can't block signals. If you block a drone's signal, it's a federal crime, just like shooting it down.
If you break this law, you could go to jail for at least a year or be fined up to $10,000. You might have to do both.
Sometimes, there is no foul play. And it’s more often than not just a clueless drone pilot.
Maybe the operator is still learning how to operate the device, and they flew it too close to your property.
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 a drone operator if they have violated any laws. These laws include "peeping tom" and privacy invasion statutes. For instance, in California, the "peeping tom" law prohibits individuals from spying on someone else's private property.
In Arizona, legal action is permissible if the drone operator did not seek your permission before flying over your property.
Invasion of privacy can also occur if the drone is equipped with a telescope that allows a detailed view of your property. With the evidence in hand, you should consult your lawyer to determine the appropriate charges against the drone operator. Those found guilty of "peeping tom" and privacy invasion may face a fine of approximately $1,000 and a six-month jail term.
Low-flying drones pose a risk to people and animals due to their propellers. Although these propellers often have guards to improve safety, their blades can still cause injury upon contact with body parts. If a drone causes damage to people or property, and there is evidence to support this, the operator will be held liable.
In general, you can take legal action if the drone is:
When considering legal action against a drone operator, be aware of factors that can render your case unjustifiable:
Current Property Laws: Traditionally, property owners were deemed to own the land below and the airspace above their property. This principle has evolved; now, property owners do not own the airspace above their property. While a drone can fly over your property, the airspace it occupies is not considered your property.
Trespass Laws: To determine if a drone was trespassing, you need to be aware of any laws in your state or locality regarding the "buffer zone" – the airspace property owners own. Some states may have ordinances or statutes limiting drone usage below certain heights. Absence of such limitations in your area could weaken your case.
The Drone's Purpose: The U.S. Supreme Court has, in several instances, ruled that property owners do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy from photographs, videos, or surveillance conducted by aircraft, including drones. Notable instances include:
Surveillance by Police: The Supreme Court has ruled that police do not need a warrant to conduct surveillance from a drone at significant heights.
Self-Defense Principle: While you may claim self-defense in attacking a drone, this law primarily involves protecting a person. You must face imminent danger to justify your reaction in a self-defense scenario involving a drone, which can be complex to establish.
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.
For more detailed guidance on handling drones flying over your property, check out my in-depth guide. It's packed with useful tips and legal advice to protect your privacy and safety.
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.
In this section we'll answer all questions related to the above article:
No, it is illegal to shoot down a drone over your property. Doing so violates US Code 32 and can result in fines and imprisonment.
No, using a signal jammer to interfere with a drone's signal is illegal under the Communications Act of 1934 and can lead to fines and imprisonment.
You should first try to communicate with the drone operator. If the issue persists, gather evidence of the drone's activities and report it to the FAA or local authorities.
Yes, if a drone is taking pictures or videos without your consent, you may pursue legal action for privacy invasion or violation of "peeping tom" laws, depending on your state's regulations.
You can put up a clear notice stating that drone flying is not allowed over your property. Additionally, you can use drone detection apps or anti-drone drones to safely intercept unauthorized drones.
No, property owners do not own the airspace above their property. The FAA regulates this airspace, and drones are generally allowed to fly over private property.
Factors include local trespass laws, the purpose of the drone's flight, and whether there's a reasonable expectation of privacy. The legality of drone surveillance by authorities and self-defense claims can also play a role.
Yes, many states have specific laws regarding drone usage, especially concerning privacy and surveillance. It's important to be aware of the laws in your state.