Not every drone pilot can drive to a vast open space to fly their drone. Some don’t have a car, some don’t have the time, and others simply don’t want to bother commuting back and forth to simply enjoy the thrill of flying.
Obviously you can’t fly your drone indoors… I mean, where is the fun in that! So that begs the obvious question: can you fly your drone in your neighborhood, or any other neighborhood for that matter?
In most states and local jurisdictions, you can fly your drone over private property, which are the houses in your neighborhood. You need to ensure that you aren’t violating any local drone laws that pertain to privacy, trespassing or nuisance.
But since we're talking about something that is highly dependent on your geographical location, your state and country (if you’re not in the U.S), it’s hard to give you a direct and straightforward answer. Which is why in this article I’ll attempt to cover this topic in detail.
First, let’s start with your own home. Can you fly over your own house? The law says yes.
In the U.S airspace ownership is usually considered to extend to between 500-1,000 feet above a property. This means that you can fly your drone for up to 400 feet (the FAA altitude limit) over your property, with no problem whatsoever.
However, that doesn’t mean that you’re completely excused. If your drone is too loud for example, your neighbors can file nuisance complaints against you. Not to mention the risk of them thinking you’re spying on them.
As we’ve discussed in my previous article about drone laws, that’s not legal, at least not without a permit.
The FAA (Federal Aviation Agency) restricts drone pilots from flying their drone over 400ft. That’s because airspace above 400 feet is considered “controlled airspace” and is heavily regulated. If you fly a drone above 400 feet without the necessary licenses and permissions, they may face civil or criminal penalties.
You might remember from the previous section that you own up to 1000ft of airspace above your property… that’s overruled by this FAA rule.
So how do you know whether you’re able to fly your drone in your neighborhood and all? Below are some general guidelines that may help you decide whether flying near your house is a good or bad idea.
As you know, flying near an airport is strictly prohibited by the FAA, unless you have an explicit permit. Areas near airports are geofenced. Meaning you physically can’t fly your drone there unless you get permission.
A good rule of thumb is to check Airmap for guidance. Once you open it up, it should look like this:
In some cases you can unlock your geofencing yourself (as outlined in this previous article), while in others you’ll have to apply for a permit from the LAANC, which is an automated process and usually grants you permission in minutes if it’s possible.
While drone use in the U.S is regulated by the FAA, states have their own extra regulations. And even within these states, you’ll still find cities and counties with their own drone regulations.
A good rule of thumb is to always check your local laws regarding flying before attempting any drone operation.
Make it a habit to always check airmap.com or the DJI Flysafe website before initiating flights.
The reason for that is simple. Air fields and classifications change. What was once a “blue” area, and therefore safe for flying, can easily become a no-go overnight.
In case of an event, a military training operation or an important visit from officials, air fields can be marked as unauthorized for flying.
In every area, there are likely veteran drone hobbyists. Make friends with them and ask around if flying in the neighborhood is okay or not.
You don’t have to go around looking for them either. There are many forums online where you can ask around, forums like:
We’re flipping the script here. What if you’re not the pilot, but just the peaceful (quiet-loving) neighbor in this scenario?
You have the right to file criminal charges against someone who flies their drone over your private property. You should however check the local laws first and know what your rights are in this scenario.
If you find that the local laws prohibit drone pilots from flying over residential areas, then yes you can file a complaint. But really, the best case scenario here would be to talk to your neighbor.
Communication is key here. Simply let them know that the propeller’s noise is extremely annoying (something they probably already know), and that you would prefer it if they flew their drones away from your home.
If you do wish to file complaints however, just know that typically you’re going to need evidence of the drone flight in the form of pictures or videos.
So you’re fed up with the drone’s noise and you want it to stop, for good. There are several things you can do in that case.
If the drone has a camera, then you can file complaints against the drone pilot for violating your privacy. In that case, the judge may temporarily restrict the pilot from flying their drone. In case of repeated transgressions, the ban can be permanent.
You can also file charges against trespassing. You see, in the U.S, if even a tree branch is leaning over your fence – it’s considered to be trespassing. The homeowner has the right to cut it if they want.
Trespassing applies to both humans and objects, and you’re therefore within your rights to file charges against the pilot if they fly a drone over your property.
Basically, you can file charges for these three main reasons, if the drone:
In most cases, you can fly your drone over residential areas. In some states or countries that’s not the case, which is why always checking in with the local regulations before flying is a must.
If you’re not a pilot worrying about the laws but a homeowner that’s just annoyed by the buzzing of drones regularly, then know that you’re completely within your rights to file charges and complaints against the transgressing pilot. I’d recommend you speak to them first though and try to reason with them.