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 ways to stop drone flying over private property.
To stop drone flights over private property you must know the law. Many states and cities restrict drone 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 will 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 critical 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 importantly, avoid getting yourself into trouble.
Can Drones Fly Over Private Property
The federal government and the FAA do not impose restrictions to fly drones 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 flights over private property.
Drone laws vary by state and even local communities. The federal aviation administration (FAA) has published a set of recommended best practices indicating that a drone operator should obtain permission to fly drones over private property. This ensures that drone operators respect the privacy of property owners.
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 owner can observe the drone, and they have not given permission, 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.
A drone operator is 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 responders or law enforcement activities.
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 means that air space above approximately 80 feet or the tree line has become the de facto standard for flying aircraft over private property. The federal government has acknowledged that states and local jurisdictions can set some restrictions. The exact altitudes aircraft can access over private property have not been clearly defined.
Most of your interaction will happen with local authorities. So it’s important that you understand state and local laws. For the most part, these state laws restrict drone flights over 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 within that airspace can be considered trespassing. One important caveat here is that in order to trespass the pilot must have been notified to restrict drone flights over that area.
Privacy laws have to do with taking photos or videos without the homeowner’s consent. Most states do not permit unauthorized imaging.
Nuisance laws include flying below a reasonable height so that noise from the drone creates a disturbance or flying in a reckless manner
Your local municipality or community may have regulations on flying drones over private property. Check with your town hall or local law enforcement to get details on local regulations. Be warned, it may be difficult to find the rules for your local jurisdiction. Keep asking until you find the right person.
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. Also, it had to do with a farmer operating his business. However, the idea is that any flight interfering 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 is open to drone flights, with no restrictions. So there’s still a lot of confusion over this issue.
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 consider drones to be aircraft. Federal law prohibits damaging or impeding the flight of any aircraft over 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.
How To Stop a Drone: Do This
So you’re looking for a way to stop drone operators from flying over your property. We’ll assume that you’re a normal person. Maybe you have a family, a job, and a life. This means you don’t want to get into trouble.
Drone netting is an excellent way to limit drone access to your property. Placing any kind of string or net across your tree canopy tends to create a hazard for drones. You can purchase commercial drone netting online at Net World Sports or US Netting.
A cheaper alternative is to simply tie a few random strings between trees in your backyard. They can be very thin so they’re not visible. 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.
How To Stop 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. Take pictures and video to document the incident.
How To Stop Commercial Drone Flights
If the drone is flying a commercial mission then you have a few additional options. The pilot probably has a drone services business.
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 you have the following options:
You can contact his employer and explain that he’s creating a problem. Believe me, commercial drone pilots do not want their customers to get a phone call about their behavior. That will probably be the last job they get with that customer.
You can report him to the FAA. The FAA maintains an official record of all complaints.
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.
How To Stop Public Drone Flights
In this case, 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. This 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 the authorization to fly. But in this case, they should not be there for too long and it won’t be a repeated flight.
How To Stop A Drone: DON’T DO THIS!
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 you 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. Birds are definitely a hazard for drones. But 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 pay for repairs or 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.
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. See our article “Is It Possible To Jam A Drone Signal?“
Drone hacking, on the other hand, involves taking complete or partial control of the drone by gaining access to its internal computer system. Law enforcement agencies take this very seriously.
These are all violations of the federal Communications Act. They can lead to a prison sentence of at least a year or a fine of $10,000. For more details see our article “Is It Possible To Hack a Drone?“
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.
Drone Flying vs. Spying vs. Landing
The laws regarding flying drones over property are pretty loose. However, 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. The original owner’s rights expire if it is not claimed after a period of time.
It’s very likely that the drone pilot it’s not 100% sure where the drone landed or crashed. So if you simply say nothing then that would be one less drone in the world.
Drone Detection Apps
There are apps available that help to detect drones. Some apps use the drone’s radio signal to triangulate its position. Other apps use the drone’s camera to identify it. The most effective apps combine both approaches.
The app provides information on drone altitude, speed, and heading. Some apps also allow users to report suspicious drone activity to authorities.
Aerial Armor Detection App
The aerial Armor drone detection app is available on both Apple and Android devices. The app generates a map of drone activity in your area.
The app can also report drone sightings to the authorities. The application is designed for security professionals. However, it appears that anyone can use it.
Airmap is an application that drone pilots can use to identify airspace restrictions in their area. The app also provides information on other drones in the area.
How To Spot a Drone In 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 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
Special strobe lights are required for night flights. These lights allow pilots to maintain a line of sight with the drone. These lights make the drone easily visible from far away. So you’ll have no problem identifying the drone if it’s over your property.
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. This means he/she has to be somewhere in the area. The pilot will probably be wearing 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 return to the landing point. If you can keep the drone in sight then eventually it will take you to the pilot.
When Can Enforcement 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 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
The state and local regulation landscape of complicated, so take time to learn the laws of your area.