Drones & Property Rights

Gregory S. McNeal, Associate Professor of Law and Public Policy at Pepperdine School of Law, discusses some property rights questions that are associated with drone use. Do property owners own the air above their property? Can they destroy a drone that flies onto their property? How should disputes between property owners and drone users be settled?

As always, the Federalist Society takes no position on particular legal or public policy issues; all expressions of opinion are those of the speaker.

Related Links:

Professor McNeal’s website:

Home

How the popular use of drones in Philadelphia creates problems for users
http://www.thedp.com/article/2016/02/drone-regulations-in-philadelphia

Know before you Fly website:
http://knowbeforeyoufly.org/air-space-map/

Why You Should Fully Support the New FAA Drone Regulations: http://www.outsideonline.com/2038621/faa-task-force-releases-its-drone-registration-recommendations

Drone Law Journal:
http://dronelawjournal.com/

Regulators Weigh Satellite Tracking for Delivery Drones:
http://www.wsj.com/articles/regulators-weigh-satellite-tracking-for-delivery-drones-1451435477

You May Be Powerless to Stop a Drone from Hovering Over Your Own Yard:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2016/01/13/you-may-be-powerless-to-stop-a-drone-from-hovering-over-your-own-yard/

42 Comments

  1. Thomas Just on April 29, 2021 at 1:46 am

    Irrelevant, any drone owner that dares fly one over my property will get what is comming to him, one way or another

  2. abuaseel01 on April 29, 2021 at 1:47 am

    We might as well throw the word "privacy" out of the dictionary.

  3. Robert Halterman on April 29, 2021 at 1:49 am

    It’s year 2020. I fly my drone over private property for over 2 years now. No problems at all.

    Just a bunch of tough guy keyboard warriors on here who think they will shoot down your drone..

  4. mercoid on April 29, 2021 at 1:50 am

    So basically someone can fly a drone over your property and you have no legal recourse. And if you destroy it you’re legally liable. So let’s see what happens to me if I fly a drone over the yard of a local politician or the police chief…, perhaps while their kids are in the backyard playing?? Hmm?? Let’s see how fast I’d be in a soundproof room in the police station with a phone book against my head while they hit it with a hammer. Where are regular people’s right to privacy?

  5. Ashley on April 29, 2021 at 1:51 am

    Sure sue them… but how on earth can you figure out who owns the drone if you don’t shoot it down? My point… we have repeat fly overs of drones lately, that coincide with burglaries and car thefts. Meanwhile homeowners are being told they legally can’t do anything, they legally cant protect their property from repeated invasion of privacy, which could include anything from thieves to pedophiles.

  6. PAK Man on April 29, 2021 at 1:51 am

    I was hired by a company to take shots of a house that they did work on. I was operating under Part 107 and flying in class G airspace. I made sure that nobody was present in any of the shots and proceeded without incidence. Am I legal?

  7. Michael Klein on April 29, 2021 at 1:54 am

    In ohio I understand that I have the right to cut a tree limb that overhangs my property line.(cut can be to myside of property line) some legal precedent I assume. Drone (property) crosses prop line (with camera) how come I can’t prune the drone? 0 to 500′ above ground.

  8. Slime Squad on April 29, 2021 at 2:01 am

    400 feet is the legal limit u can reach a height….. so you cant fly at “700” feet over someones land

  9. Andy Bawn on April 29, 2021 at 2:02 am

    FAA regulation minimum height.
    (b) Over congested areas – Over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement, or over
    any open-air assembly of persons, an altitude of 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle
    within a horizontal radius of 2,000 feet of the aircraft.
    (c) Over other than congested areas – An altitude of 500 feet above the surface except over
    open water or sparsely populated areas. In that case, the aircraft may not be operated
    closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure.

  10. Emese Jasinski on April 29, 2021 at 2:04 am

    Oh my God I need help

  11. jkeltge on April 29, 2021 at 2:04 am

    What if I equip my drone to shoot down their drone?

  12. Lobo rake on April 29, 2021 at 2:05 am

    Let’s cut to the chase here. What this is really about is keeping perverts from flying over your backyards to take pictures of your daughter sunbathing or worse. Perverts who wants to look at into other people’s windows and backyards need to be prosecuted by the state has stopped protecting the public. As usual there on the side of evil against good. We’ve lost our way.

  13. Mike Wolosz on April 29, 2021 at 2:06 am

    All I know if the drone crashes on my land it is mine.

  14. Gary Etn on April 29, 2021 at 2:06 am

    US Supreme Court did not establish ownership of airspace in feet in the US versus Cosby case. That was an easement case regarding the airport that was behind Mr. Cosby’s home. The high court ruled under the Suprmecy act or article of the United States Constitution the airspace is under the control of the United States government. Under Cosby the 83 feet was because that was the height of this tallest tree on his property. Old common law allows for your property to go to what you use and not not all the way up to the heavens. That was the theory of all common law there is a case now that gives guidance to individuals re. The use of air space. Boggs v. Meredith where Boggs shoots down A drone over his property claiming a right to privacy and trespassing.
    Not only is it illegal to shoot down the drone Boggs was found guilty of firing in a dangerous manner within the city limits. The high court ruled that Boggs had no right to assume privacy in his own backyard or did he have the right to randomly shoot into the air causing danger. The court also a rule that Bob’s airspace above did not belong to him and was under the control of the FAA United States government do to the new actions of flying machines. The FAA has ruled drones as planes. Read the fifth article to the constitution regarding supremacy act. It for a bed cities and towns to try to regulate air space that is under the control of the federal government.

  15. Whooperguide on April 29, 2021 at 2:10 am

    There is a drone flying over my private property as well as my neighbors private property to video endangered Whooping Cranes. The drone operator is chasing and harassing the Whooping Cranes. Game wardens have been out multiple times and have been unable to locate the individual operating the drone. I have been warned by both the wardens and a friend that is a senior official with the FAA that if I shoot it down I will be the one going to jail. I am going to get my own drone and follow the invading drone back to its owner. With this video the FAA will be able to prosecute the operator. It is a federal violation for the operator to be out of visual range of the drone. This is the case in our area as there is no direct line of sight from anywhere to keep the drone in sight at all times.

  16. mrdave2112 on April 29, 2021 at 2:11 am

    If drones can’t be flown over private property, planes ought to be included. Google planes have way better zoom power than any drone. Also, planes have crashed into houses and killed people. Drone crashes could injure people or property too.

  17. Gloria Peters on April 29, 2021 at 2:11 am

    margin tranner

  18. NG Ware on April 29, 2021 at 2:13 am

    You look at some of the responses here and see how certain progressive politicians stay in office. The alarmism. The panic. The absolute certainty that everyone on earth is evil. My God y’all, are you that afraid to be alive?

    I am an experienced and licensed drone pilot. Except for the odd pervert and teenage boys (mostly), no one wants to spy on you. I mean face it, your wife ain’t nuthin to waste a battery on dude. And everyone already has pictures of your daughter. (Relax Elmo, it’s a JOKE). Besides, she looks like her mother…

    Transiting someone’s property a couple of hundred feet up is perfectly legal. Hovering or flying low over someone’s property is probably gonna be a problem.

    Here is the crux, the only authority for the national air space is the FAA. Towns and villages cannot make laws or ordinances or regulations that have anything to do with national air space. A few years ago a town decided that if drones can’t legally fly OVER 400 feet, then in their town they couldn’t fly UNDER 400 feet and so they couldn’t fly. Except the law got shot down on appeal, because FAA, that’s why.

    There’s a lot of good, honest, ethical drone pilots that are being affected by fools running their mouthes and the usual bunch of cops and politicians who lay awake at night worrying that there may still be some activity they haven’t regulated yet. Get over yourselves.

  19. seng on April 29, 2021 at 2:14 am

    0nn.

  20. Alex Torres on April 29, 2021 at 2:15 am

    Sorry to say your video has a gross misrepresentation by portraying a motor bike with somebody mounted on it as being driven thru private property….the correct representation would be a motor vehicle riding in your property with nobody inside it…..then tell if showing the property owner using any means to stop the intrusive artifact wouldn’t look reasonable…

  21. Your worst Nightmare on April 29, 2021 at 2:16 am

    There are ways to make your land a no fly zone people this include helicopters and planes thank you

  22. valkry007 on April 29, 2021 at 2:18 am

    What happened to a citizens right to privacy ? Of not being spied on with video or cameras on your own land.

  23. Scottie1040 on April 29, 2021 at 2:18 am

    Prove I shot the stupid thing down. Prove it wasn’t flying too low. Prove every bit of your case, or go get another drone to play with and go play somewhere else. Simply by denying that you are the one that brought it down will go a very long way toward shutting down this stupid behavior. Shoot, shovel and shut up.

  24. LD853 on April 29, 2021 at 2:18 am

    I would of like to see this video reference specific laws. That way we can verify the way it’s being interpreted.

    Some research relating to Privacy Law in the US said:
    If you are the lawful, legal resident of the property (i.e. home owner or have a lease or contract on a dwelling such as an apartment): you have a reasonable expectation of privacy under US Law. You can remove / destroy the device.
    Unless you are previously informed, by or under contract, that you may be recorded in a private dwelling, if you should find any surreptitious monitoring device, you have a perfect right to destroy that device (without repercussions or legal consequences).

    Not worth the legal headache imho.

  25. LD853 on April 29, 2021 at 2:20 am

    Can you use a laser to blind the camera on the drone?

  26. No use for lazy people None. on April 29, 2021 at 2:22 am

    Question. If you don’t destroy the drone, HOW do you find out WHO’S flying the drone??? They can hide several hundred yards away and not be seen.

  27. Kman on April 29, 2021 at 2:24 am

    How do you know who is flying the drone? To take action against them. They could be a mile away sitting in their living room.

  28. The Prickly Prick on April 29, 2021 at 2:24 am

    If a drone is flying over your property at 120ft that’s still a invasion of your property. Now government drones you can’t really do anything unfortunately. I’m more concerned about civilian drones

  29. Optical Clarity on April 29, 2021 at 2:27 am

    Hover it over my property, I’ll destroy it. Take me to court & I’ll subpoena all of your drone footage & gps records. And WHEN we show you are using the drone to peer into people’s houses, expect counter charges & a jury nullification all day every day.

  30. Ray Parker on April 29, 2021 at 2:30 am

    We need to be able to shoot down full size planes, birds, and UFO’s flying over our homes as well! Also if you pull your car into my driveway to turn around watch out! People are really the dumbest creatures on the planet!

  31. Darla Ballard on April 29, 2021 at 2:30 am

    Not if it’s late hrs n with no permission at. From land /home owners property it’s straight ilegal flying I’m gonna a look up drone flying restrictions. N invastion of privacy

  32. Hoppe Hoppe Reiter on April 29, 2021 at 2:32 am

    I would be so stoked if P-51 Mustangs flew over my property everyday.

  33. Jane Book on April 29, 2021 at 2:32 am

    that is because the govt uses drones to spy on private citizens

  34. mechati on April 29, 2021 at 2:36 am

    BS laws – what about high altitude with high magnification lense on the drone… – living in country with no privacy rights

  35. LD853 on April 29, 2021 at 2:37 am

    2:20 I would be more concerned about people shooting weapons into the air without consideration to how far their particular ammunition will travel, and if it will cause harm to innocent people or property.

  36. Jazzyman on April 29, 2021 at 2:43 am

    Worst analogy ever. Moped and a drone? At least people who drive mopeds have class.

  37. Matthew Neale on April 29, 2021 at 2:43 am

    Drones are designed for panoramic and landscape type photography, not spy craft, or closeup photography. It’s basically a flying GoPro. The drones with ability to take closeups are very expensive, If someone wants to spy on you there are much easier and cheaper ways to do it. If someone is part 107 certified it’s doubtful that they would waste their time spying on their neighbors. Also, there is a difference between a drone hovering above your property and simply flying through, or incidental intrusion.

  38. Jess on April 29, 2021 at 2:43 am

    Its illegal if its out of their sight. Which happened to us, nosey exfriends sending one to our house. Its a form of harassment especially after I told one of them to stay away from my family and I prior. Ironically she works for the County, and thinks she is above the law with all her "cop" friends.

  39. G-Z-M on April 29, 2021 at 2:43 am

    I don’t give a shit! A drone comes in my property airspace, it’s coming down one way or another, period!

  40. Teeny Canoe on April 29, 2021 at 2:44 am

    If a drone has a camera for taking pictures it will be fair game if over private property. The pictures being taken are illegal and can not be used in evidence for proof that the who shot it down. I would suggest that drone owners with expensive drones not fly over private property. Because there are a host of people who will shoot them down #2 shot in a 12 gage 3 1/2" shells can really take out a drown, but #4 Buck will do even better.

  41. jf2mad on April 29, 2021 at 2:44 am

    I really don’t care what any level of government says. If a drone is flying over my home so low that 12 gauge birdshot can damage it, then guess what is going to happen.And the analogy of a moped is bullshit. Mopeds are not unmanned or anonymous. Drones can fly in, invade privacy and disappear leaving no way to track the pervert operating it. The best thing to do with an invading drone in my opinion is drop it. Then when the owner comes to retrieve it drop him too. THAT’s a precedent that will be noticed.

  42. Michael Davis on April 29, 2021 at 2:46 am

    So if they are flying low enough to be shot down with a 12 gage then I can and will shoot them is that what everyone else got from this?

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