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Ultimate guide when flying over private property

Updated in 2022 by Paul Posea
Flying over private property

Flying a drone over someone's private property can be a tricky situation. While the law is still catching up with the technology, there are a few things you should keep in mind if you find yourself in this situation. Most countries have laws that protect an individual's right to privacy, and these laws typically extend to airspace above private property. In the United States, for example, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has established rules that prohibit flying a drone over someone's house or backyard without their permission.

If you're caught flying your drone over private property without permission, you could be fined or even arrested. In some cases, the property owner may also have the right to sue you for invading their privacy. So, it's important to understand the risks before you take off.

General drone rules in the U.S

  • Fly at or below 400 ft. (Do not fly below 400ft over water bodies)
  • Keep your drone within line of sight or use a co-located visual observer with direct communication.
  • Do not interfere with crewed aircraft and give way to emergency responses.
  • Take TRUST test and always carry the proof of passage (recreational pilots)
  • Pass the knowledge test (certified commercial pilots)
  • Register your drone with the FAA (drones above 0.55lbs) and mark it with the given registration number.
  • Do not fly drones from a moving vehicle
  • Do not fly above 100mph speed

Can you fly a drone over private property?

Flying a drone low over someone’s property without their approval is considered trespass or nuisance, even though you don’t personally go into that property. This is a civil rather than a criminal matter–it differs in different states.

The laws governing drone flight vary from country to country, so it's important to check the regulations in your area before taking off. In the United States, the FAA prohibits flying a drone over someone's private property without their permission.

This means that if you want to fly your drone over a house or backyard, you'll need to get explicit permission from the property owner first. Failure to do so could result in a fine or even arrest.

It's also important to note that the property owner may have the right to sue you for invading their privacy, even if you didn't mean to do any harm. So, it's best to err on the side of caution and get permission before taking off.

In states like Oregon, for instance, the legislature is still working on laws specifically addressing drone flight. This means that the rules are subject to change, and it's important to stay up-to-date on the latest regulations.

What are the drone laws in Oregon concerning the private property?

837.380: Private property owners  

Oregon statutes prohibit the operation of drones over an individual’s property multiple times; flying a drone over the property once is not a crime. However, action can be taken if the property owner had notified the drone pilot that they do not want UAVs flown over their land. The only exception where the private landowner has no cause of action is if the drone is taking off or landing on a lawful runway.

837.310: Restrictions

This bill prohibits a law enforcement agency from obtaining or disclosing any information acquired through the operation of a UAV over private property. The only exceptions to this rule are when the law enforcement has obtained a written consent which cannot exceed 30 days, or if the purpose of drone operation is to conduct rescue operations during emergencies. 

837.320: Exigent circumstances

A law enforcement agency could only be authorized to disclose and use information acquired through drone operations if issued with a warrant. Additionally, if the agency has a plausible cause to believe that the person in question has committed a crime, is about to commit a crime, or is currently executing one, a court of law may issue an exigent warrant.

837.330: Written Consent

If an individual gives written consent, then a law enforcement agency is free to obtain and use information gathered through the use of an unmanned aircraft over their private property.

837.335: Emergencies and Rescue

A law enforcement agency can operate a UAV over an individual’s private property without consent only during an emergency or a rescue mission.  However, the governor of that jurisdiction must give consent to the agency.

837.345: Training

If private land is near a lawful runway or airport, law enforcement or public body may be authorized to fly a drone over that land for training purposes only.

Is Oregon the only U.S State with drone laws over private property?

Most U.S states have laws that protect an individual's right to privacy, and these laws typically extend to airspace above private property. Each state has its own specific laws governing drone flight, so it's important to check the regulations in your area before taking off. Failure to do so could result in a fine or even arrest.

Some notable examples include:

Arkansas

Act 293 forbids any drone operations for privacy invasion and video voyeurism over private premises. Additionally, Act 1019 bans drone surveillance over private land and critical infrastructures.   

California

In California, Civil Code Section 1708.8 makes it a class A misdemeanor for drones to record individuals who expect privacy without their consent.

Florida

Florida state legislature Criminal Code Section 934.50 prohibits the use of drones for surveillance that violates an individual’s reasonable expectations of privacy. This law also applies to law enforcement agencies with the exemption of a valid warrant, probable terrorism threat, or undertaking a rescue mission as per SB 92.

Related, HB 1027 allows local authorities to regulate drones in instances of nuisance, video voyeurism property damage, and harassment on private property. This violation is subject to criminal penalties.

Indiana

HB 1009 in Indiana, HB 1009 forbids unauthorized shooting and surveillance on private property and classifies it as a class A misdemeanor. Public bodies have to obtain a search warrant to conduct video surveillance over an individual’s property and with probable cause.

Louisiana

HB 1029 makes it unlawful to intentionally record or surveil a private location using a drone without the owner's prior written consent. Flying a drone below 400ft proximity to private land without permission is considered unlawful in Louisiana.

What happens if I violate the drone laws over private property?

Temporary restraining order- if the owner reports illegal drone operations and can demonstrate that the drone camera was recording them, you’ll be issued with a restraining order. Additionally, your drone may be confiscated, and you’ll be required to pay for the damages caused by the invasion of privacy. Alternatively, you may be recording a tech-savvy person who might jam your drone's signal. Although that’s a violation of federal law, you both face criminal charges.

What is the private cause of action to take when a drone flies over my real property?

File a cause of action for trespass if a drone is flying close and you believe it’s a reason for danger. Take pictures or have proof to present to a court of law. Alternatively, you can report for nuisance if the drone whirring noises interfere with your quiet peace. Lastly, request for a restraining order in court. Take these legal actions if you’ve warned the drone pilot and they’re not withdrawing.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

  1. Can I shoot a drone flying over my private property?

No. Shooting a drone is a criminal offense, even if it’s over your private property. Instead, call the police if you believe the drone is probable to cause harm to you or it's being flown illegally.

  1. Can you fly a drone over private property at night?

Flying a drone over private property is illegal in most regions, whether in daylight or at night. The only exemption is if you have prior written consent from the owner or approval by the court of law for law enforcement agencies.

  1. How do I tell if a drone is watching me?

Detect the direction of the green and red lights; if the red lights are facing you and the green lights are away, then the drone camera is oriented towards you. Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell in daylight, but this perfectly serves at night.

  1. How do you stop drones from flying over your property?

Reporting to the police is the primary action. Suppose you can prove that a drone’s camera has invaded your privacy report for trespass and nuisance. The drone pilot will receive a temporary restraining order near your property. 

  1. Can I put a no-drone zone sign over my private property?

No, you cannot. Only the regulatory bodyis authorized to put up a no-drone zone sign on a property. Unfortunately, this law only applies to critical government infrastructures like correction facilities, petroleum refineries, and courthouses, not private property.  

Advanced drone technology has made it easy to snoop over people's private lives. Unfortunately, as a private property owner, you have limited control over the airspace above your land—only the FAA can regulate drone operations over any navigable airspace. However, familiarize yourself with drone laws in your city to know the cause of action when you feel endangered by drone operations above your property. If you’re contemplating taking aerial views of your neighbor’s property to be, learn and understand the laws and regulations in place. Fly safe and responsibly.  

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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