How To Stop A Drone Flying Over Your Property

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Me with my drone

Drones are a lot of fun and an awesome business opportunity. We started our family business, then created this blog to offer advice to others that are interested in this technology. 

Table of Contents

It’s no secret that drones have become increasingly popular in recent years. However, not everyone is a fan of drone technology. In particular, many people are concerned about the privacy implications of having a drone fly over their property. If you’re one of those people, there are a few things you can do to try to stop drone flying over your property.

To stop drones flights over private property you understand the law. Many states and cities restrict drne flight over private property. First, talk to the drone operator and ask them to stop. If this doesn’t work then you have a number of options from drone-proofing your property to filing a police report. Your best choice wil depend on your specific situation.

There are a number of counter-drone technologies that can be used to disable or deter drones from flying in certain areas. However, it is crticial that you understand the law when utilizing counter-drone technologies. You’ll increase your chances of keeping unwanted drones out of your airspace and, most imprtantly, avoid getting yoruself into trouble.

image hate drones

Can Drones Fly Over Private Property?

The federal government and the FAA do not impose restrictions on flying a drone over private property. However, many states and local jurisdictions have established drone flight restrictions based on trespassing, privacy, or nuisance laws. These are your best legal options to limit drone flight over private property.

Drone laws vary by state and even local communities. The FAA has published a set of recommended best practices indicating that drone operators should obtain permission before flying over private property. This ensures that drone operators do not invade the privacy property owners.

Best Practices for drone flights

In general, it is not considered trespassing if a drone is flown over private property at a high enough altitude that the owner cannot see it. However, if the drone is low enough that the owner can see it, and they have not given permission for it to be there, then it could be considered trespassing under certain conditions. For example, it would be illegal to use a drone to spy on a neighbor through their window.

Drones are not allowed to fly over certain types of private property, such as correctional facilities and power plants. There are also restrictions on flying drones over first responder or law enforcament activities.

drone rules over first responders

Federal Law

As far as the US federal government is concerned there is no restriction to drones flying over private property. The FAA’s position is that all airspace is what is called “navigable airspace”, meaning that it’s open to any aircraft.

However, the Supreme Court has ruled in a few cases that homeowners are entitled to reasonable enjoyment and use of their property. So aircraft should not interfere with the homeowner’s use of their land. In practice, this has meant that air space above aproxximately 80 feet or the tree line has become the de facto standard for flying aircraft over private property. While the federal government has acknowledged that states and local jurisdictions can set some restrictions based on their authority, the exact altitudes aircraft can access over private property have not been clearly defined.

Federal and State Drone laws for drones

State Law

Most of your interaction will happen on the state or local level so it’s important that you understand the rules and know your rights. For the most part, these state laws fall restrict drone flights of private property based on trespassing, privacy, or nuisance regulations.

The trespassing laws assume the homeowner owns some of the air space over their property, therefore any flights over the property can be considered trespassing. One important caveat here is that in order to trespass the person must have been notified not to fly the drone over that area.

Privacy laws have to do with taking photos or videos of people without the homeowner’s consent. Most states do not permit unauthorized imaging.

The nuisance laws include flying below a reasonable height so that noise from the drone creates a disturbance or flying in a reckless manner

Local Law

Your local municipality or community organizations may have regulations on flying drones over private property. Check with your town hall or local police station to get details on local regulations. be warned that it may be difficult to find the rules for your local jurisdiction. Keep asking until you find the right person.

Local municipality drone regulations

What is Your Airspace

In United States v. Causby, the Supreme Court of the United States in 1946 provided guidance on where private property rights of airspace end and navigable airspace begins. The court found in favor of a farmer when aircraft flying at 83 feet over his property caused his chickens to go crazy and hurt themselves. Obviously, this is very different than most present-day cases, the Supreme Court ruling was for actual manned aircraft flying 83 feet which is pretty extreme and it had to do with a farmer operating his business. However, the idea is that flight that property that interferes with the enjoyment or use of a homeowner’s property can be subject to restrictions.

It’s important to realize that the federal government, that is the FAA, does not yet recognize this right of homeowners. The FAA says that all airspace he’s open to drone flights, with no restrictions.

When Are Civilians Allowed To Take Down A Drone

As a property owner and civilian, you are not allowed to actively damage a drone in any way. The federal government and FAA considers drones to be aircraft, and federal law prohibits damaging or impeding the flight of any aircraft or US airspace.

Having said that there are ways that you can protect your property from drone flights in a passive manner that does not violate federal law. We’ll review this in the next section.

legal methods to stop drones

How To Stop a Drone: Do This

So you’re looking for a way to stop drones from flying over your property. We”ll assume that you’re a normal person, maybe you have a family, a job, and a life which means you don’t wan to get into trouble. This section covers the ways we recommend that are legal I won’t get you any trouble.

the right way to remove drones

Drone Nets

Drone netting is an excellent way to limit drone access to your property. Placing any kind of string or nets across your tree canopy tends to create a hazard for drones. You can purchase commercial drone netting here online. 

Net World Sports

drone net image

US Netting

drone netting image

Do-It-Yourself

An cheaper alternative is to simply tie a few random strings between trees in your backyard, they can be very thin so they are not visible and still be effective at stopping drones. Doing this is well within your rights as the property owner. It’s a passive but very effective solution to ensure drones stay above the treeline.

Recreational Drone Flights

If the drone is flown by a recreational pilot then your options are somewhat limited. Our first recommendation is always to simply ask the pilot to not fly his drone over your property. In most cases that should be sufficient, however, it does require that you find the pilot which may be difficult.

If the drone is creating a nuisance by flying too low, disrupting some activity, or creating a hazard then you can always report the incident to the police. If possible take pictures and video to document the incident.

police complaint for drones

Commercial Drone Flights

A commercial flight means that the pilot is getting paid, and probably has a drone service business. If the drone is flying a commercial mission then you have a few additional options.

If you can find a pilot then get his pilot’s license certification number and a business card. As always our first recommendation is to simply ask him to stop flying over your property. If he refuses then do you have the following options:

You can contact his employer and explain that he’s creating a problem. Beleive me, no drone commercial drone pilot wants their customer to get a phone call about their behavior. That will probably be the last job they get with that customer.

drone complaint image

You can report him to the FAA, as a commercial pilot any complaint will be logged as an incident in his official record.

Lastly, you can always go online and leave a negative report for his business. As a commercial pilot, a negative business rating will have a significant impact.

online drone business review

Public Drone Flights

If it’s a public mission then you may have a problem, because it’s either law enforcement or some public services organization. If it’s law enforcement then it’s likely they have a warrant which means you’re in trouble, but be sure to ask and see the warrant. 

If it’s a public service organization then they probably have authorization to fly. But in this case, they should not be there for too long and it would won’t be a repeated flight.

police drone

How To Stop A Drone: DON’T DO THIS!

You’re looking for a way to stop guys from flying drones over your property. Let’s say you’re a bit of a wacko, you’re bad news. For you, the law is merely a set of suggestions you might want to consider, and the police are of little concern for someone of your stature. Or perhaps you are employed by a foreign government and therefore have diplomatic immunity in the US. If this is you, then read on.

Birds & Drones

One of the crazier ideas that we’ve come across is to use birds to attack the drone. Although birds are definetly a hazard for drones, the idea of becoming a falconer seems like a pretty huge investment in time and effort.

We’ve seen similar recommendations to deploy an attack drone. Strange idea because your solution to getting rid of one drone over your property is to have two drones over your property. Also this is going to be a very expensive solution, not to mention that it’s a one-time solution. Assuming that you could actually take down the drone with your drone, you have to buy a new one to do it next time.

In addition to being kind of whacky, both of these ideas intentionally damage drones so they are not legal.

image bird attacking drone

Jamming & Hacking

Drone jamming is the deliberate interference with a drone’s signal in order to render it useless. The use of jammers, GPS blockers, or any signal Jamming device designed to intentionally block, jam, or interfere with authorized radio communications is a violation of federal law. Some people have had success blinding a drone’s cameras with laser pointers or high-powered flashlights.

Drone hacking, on the other hand, involves taking complete or partial control of the drone by gaining access to its internal computer system.

These are all violations of the federal Communications Act and can lead to a prison sentence of at least a year or a fine of $10,000

Guns

Let’s finally (hopefully) put this question to bed. You cannot shoot down drones over your property, with any kind of firearm whether it’s a BB gun or a shotgun. Shooting any aircraft is a federal crime, even if it’s on your own property, per Title 18 US Code 32 of the 1984 Aircraft Sabotage Act. You could be jailed for as little as five years and, in some cases, up to 20 years. In addition, you can be charged with multiple criminal charges related to discharging of a firearm.

arrest after shooting drone

Drone Flying vs. Spying vs. Landing

The laws regarding flying drones over property are pretty loose, the laws about taking photos or videos on private property are much more strict. Most states require some type of consent.

On the outside chance that the drone actually lands on your property then you have some options. Common law states that whoever owns the property where the drone crashes can keep it, until or unless the owner comes to retrieve it. In some places, statutes require that people turn lost personal property over to a government official, and if it has not been claimed after a period of time, the original owner’s rights expire. 

It’s very likely that the drone pilot it’s not 100% sure where the drone land or crashed, so if you simply say nothing then that would be one less drone in the world.

Legal vs Illegal drone removal

Drone Detection Apps

There are apps available that can help you to detect drones. Some of these apps use the drone’s radio signal to triangulate its position, while others use the drone’s camera to identify it. The most effective apps combine both approaches.

Once a drone has been detected, the app will usually provide information on its altitude, speed, and heading. This information can be used to determine whether the drone is a threat, and to take appropriate evasive action if necessary. In addition to providing information on drone activity, some of these apps also allow users to report suspicious drone activity to authorities.

By using these apps, people can play an active role in keeping their communities safe from drone threats.

Aerial Armor Detection App

Aerial Armor new drone detection app that is available on both Apple and Android devices. It helps users identify drones that are flying in their vicinity. There are also a number of other features that the app offers, including the ability to report drone sightings to the authorities and to view a map of drone activity in your area. The application is intnded for secutory professionals, but it appears that anyone can use it.

image Aerial Armor drone detection app

Airmap

Airmap is an application that drone pilots can use to find out whether there are any airspace restrictions in their area. The app also provides information on other drones in the area. It’s intended for use by drone pilot’s but anyone can use it

image Air Map drone detection

How To Spot a Drone Daytime

Spotting a drone during the day can be difficult. Drone technology has advanced to where many drones are quite small and difficult to see unless they’re close. While drones do have a distinctive buzzing noise many of the newer drones are much quieter than the old drones so they’re also harder to hear. Unless it’s an older drone or unless it’s flying much lower than it should be flying chances are you won’t see it, which is good because that means it won’t be a problem.

How to Spot a Drone at Night

Drones flying at night are required to have special lights so the pilots can maintain a line of sight with the drone. These lights make the drone easily visible from far away. Often these are strobe lights so you’ll have no problem identifying the drone it it’s over your property.

drone lights for night flight

How To Find The Drone Pilot

There are two basic ways to locate the drone pilot. The pilot must maintain a line of sight with the drone, so that means he has to be somewhere in the area. If it’s a commercial drone flight or if it’s a public drone flight chances are the pilot will be wearing some type of special clothing like a safety vest for easy identification. So just look around the area and you probably be able to find them.

Your second option is to follow the drone, eventually, all drones will have to return to the landing point. If you can keep the drone in sight then eventually it will take you to the pilot.

Searching for drone pilot

When is Law Enforcement Allowed To Take Down A Drone

Surprisingly both federal and local law enforcement agencies have very limited ability to take down drones or any aircraft. According to the Reauthorization Act of 2018 law enforcement can intercept, damage, or seize the drone only if it is deemed to create an immediate public hazard.

The reason for this is that the dangers associated with crashing a drone can outweigh the dangers of having a drone in flight. It’s more likely that law enforcement will look to find the drone operator and confront that individual.

Drone Laws By State

State Law Summary Table

The state and local regulation landscape of complicated, so take time to learn the laws of your area.

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Felton Flood, PhD

Felton Flood, PhD

Dr. Flood has 25+ years experience in telecommunications and is a veteran of several startups in Silicon Valley and Northern Virginia. In 2021 he co-founded Lightwave Aerial, applying machine learning and cloud technologies to innovate UAV services.

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