Can Drones Fly Over Private Property?

Can Drones Fly Over Private Property

The question of whether someone can fly a drone over your private property (house) is a pretty complex one. On the one hand, someone flying a drone a couple of millimetres above the blades of grass on your land would clearly implicate your property rights. However, someone flying a drone at 500 feet (152m) or 700 feet (213m) above your land clearly would not implicate your property rights.

So the question is, where do we draw the line between a couple of millimetres above a blade of grass all the way up to 100 feet (30m) above your property. The line between which your drone should fly would be for People and properties on 150ft (50m) or above. Drones flying at high altitudes have a right to be there, and the land owners really don’t have a claim against those individuals.


Where does the landowners rights end and the public navigable airspace begin? In the 1940’s the US Supreme Court handed down a decision, US v. Causby. In the case the Causby’s who were chicken farmers sued the federal government because the Federal government was flying over their property at low altitude. The case made it all the way to the supreme Court and the Supreme Court said that the Causby’s actually had a property right in the airspace above their land and specifically over flights that took place at 83 feet (25m) above their land intruded upon the Causby’s property rights.

What was really interesting about this case is it for the first time established a right of property in the airspace above one’s land. But what was even more interesting is that the Court of Federal Claims said that not only did the Causby’s own up to 83 feet (25m) above their land, they were actually entitled to damages for over flights ranging from 83 feet all the way up to 365 feet (111m) above their property.


We’re starting to see a few disputes now between drone fliers and property owners and the way these disputes are oftentimes playing out is that the drone flier is flying at some low altitude and the landowner incorrectly belives that they have some right to destroy that person’s drone. What we’re finding in those circumstances is that for the most part courts are siding with the drone owner saying that that persone has a right to operate that aircraft and not have their aircraft destroyed. However, we are also seeing a few cases, in particular a case in Kentucky where the court basically is throwing out charges against individuals who are destroying drones saying that the landowner actually has a right to destroy the drone that’s trespassing upon its property.


Remember that it is your responsibility if you fly a drone and you need to be aware of the rules and to make sure everyone is safe. Just follow these steps and you will not have to fear for anything.


I think that the cases that are trending towards giving people a right to destroy the drones are wrongly decided. A better way to decide this is to say that landowners have some rights to exclude low altitude flights and drone operators can be liable if they fly at low altitudes where as those drones that fly at high altitudes have a right to be there and the land owners really don’t have a claim against those individuals.

„Drones flying at high altitudes have a right to be there, and the land owners really don’t have a claim against those individuals.“


In almost all circumstances you can’t destroy a drone that flies over your property. The reason for this or the analogy is pretty simple. If someone were to ride a moped onto your land, would you be entitled to go out with a baseball bat and smash up the moped? The answer is clearly NO! They would be able to sue you for damaging their property and you’d be able to sue them for a trespass and on balance. I think what would end up happening is the person who destroyed the moped would get the raw end of that deal.

In the same way, if  you were to destroy someone’s drone for flying over your property they would be able to sue you for the damage that you did to their drone. 


It is a federal crime to shoot down aircraft and in 2016, the FAA confirmed that that includes drones. The statue also prohibits interfering wit anyone „engaged in the authorized operation of such aircraft“ and carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison. By the rules drones are considered aircrafts, therefore you have to be careful and know that it is a federal crime subject for 5 years in prision for that. “

So yes, those are that’s the law those are the consequences if people carry through their actions theoretically they could go to jail for 5 to 20 years. No one has yet been prosecuted for doing this, I haven’t even seen it actually happened but it could theoretically happen. Some people were confused about the legality because the FAA hadn’t actually ruled on it and so people somewhat understandably thought that if a drone was near their property or if it was on their property and it had a camera and it could be spying on them inside of their homes that they could just blast it out of the sky but at least at present that’s actually not the way things work. Now there are certainly certain regulations especially those intended to protect privacy rights that should be considered and if they work they should be passed because people have a right to privacy, but until that time stay calm.


My advice is first of all, don’t overreact, like the man in New Jersey who took out a pistol and shot his neighbor’s drone out of the sky. Not only that this sort of conduct will surely escalate tensions between you, and perhaps get you into deeper trouble with the police and a private lawsuit.

You have to behave naturally as in any other situation where your neighbor engaged in any other annoying conduct. Try to reach him by phone or to go directly to him. Therefore, just come in front of your neighbors’ house and ask him kindly not to fly a drone over your backyard. Tell him that you’ve noticed that his drone is flying over your backyard and that it bothers you. So if you ask nicely, the vast majority of neighbors will stop and you will have your peace.


If you’re flying indoors, you do not need to register your unmanned aircraft as the FAA does not regulate indoor UAS use. Remember that any drone that weighs more than 0.55 lbs must be registered, even if you fly it in your own backyard. Any drone that is between 0.55 pounds and 55 pounds has to be registered as a small unmanned aircraft system on the FAAs website. It cost $5 for registration. If you plan on flying your drone outside and it is over a half of a pound then it has to be registered. Website for registration is: https://faadronezone.faa.gov

Indoor flight can be a useful tool if used in the right way, however, it’s best if you avoid it unless necessary. If you are planning on it, make sure you choose the right drone for the job and build up to it. If you are a beginner and you don’t have too much experience in drone flying, it is best to stick to your limits. Drones are fun, but keep in mind that you can always hurt someone if you lose focus.


Therefore, we came to the conclusion that flying a drone a couple of millimetres above the blades of grass on your land would clearly implicate your property rights, and flying a drone at 150 feet (50m) above your land clearly would NOT implicate your property rights. As recreational drone use becomes increasingly widespread across the World, therefore we must also learn their laws. A clear sign that most drone users take their responsibility seriously and are a credit to the community. Do not think that drones will just disappear, they are here to stay, and have a lot of potentials in industries like agriculture, aerial photography, construction and plenty of others.

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