Drones & Property Rights

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:


How the popular use of drones in Philadelphia creates problems for users

Know before you Fly website:

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:

Regulators Weigh Satellite Tracking for Delivery Drones:

You May Be Powerless to Stop a Drone from Hovering Over Your Own Yard:


  1. Michael Davis on June 16, 2022 at 7:16 pm

    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?

  2. Matthew Hartup on June 16, 2022 at 7:18 pm

    I’m highly acurate with a sling shot, you could also get a jammer, all else fails.. bird shot. 250 feet over my property is a ‘no drone zone’. No one has my permission or the right to spy on me or my family, or "scope out" my property.

  3. 427Jeep on June 16, 2022 at 7:19 pm

    You guys scared of drones? You should see your smartphone actively tracks the stores and places you go. Buncha real carhart jeans, not very intelligent women beater types in here. I fly my drone all over my neighborhood. I dont spy on people but I can obviously see your yard. My equipment is worth over 1200 dollars. If some carhart jeans wearing tard wants to shoot at my shit and did, id go to his house as id see on camera where the idiot was and calmly tell him he has 3 options, you pay for a new drone now, i take you to court and get my money, or I repeatedly soccer kick your face. Cops will be involved one way or another. Cant stand these arrogant and tech illiterate tards, always with some dirty front yard, low income house yelling about ISIS and perverts flying drones. Dude on a CNN interview literally said he shot a drone down because it "could have been ISIS."

  4. Slime Squad on June 16, 2022 at 7:19 pm

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

  5. Hoppe Hoppe Reiter on June 16, 2022 at 7:19 pm

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

  6. Jazzyman on June 16, 2022 at 7:21 pm

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

  7. mechati on June 16, 2022 at 7:24 pm

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

  8. Ashley Marie on June 16, 2022 at 7:26 pm

    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.

  9. mercoid on June 16, 2022 at 7:27 pm

    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?

  10. CD71 on June 16, 2022 at 7:28 pm

    Flying over & past is one thing. Hovering at low altitude & taking video should be invasion of privacy, trespassing, possible stalking! You see a "Peeping Tom" or stalker on my property looking through the windows & you do what? Call the cops as they walk off??
    Shoot that damn thing down!!

  11. David Rugg on June 16, 2022 at 7:32 pm

    Soon there will be a low level emp rifle or some other thing that somebody will think up and make bank. Give it a little time. It will be harder to prove that the land owner did anything because all damage incurred would be from the resulting crash. Ignorance is bliss…

  12. Michael Klein on June 16, 2022 at 7:32 pm

    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.

  13. 2Bluzin on June 16, 2022 at 7:32 pm

    Wow this info is so out of date. In a nutshell, the Trump Administration and Congress passed new sweeping laws in 2018 and the FAA now controls all airspace in the United States PERIOD. No individual, city, or state can make laws forbidding flight over their air space. Previous laws are void. All they can do is limit landing and take off within their boundaries. You can not fly a drone over 400 feet and planes and helicopters are not allowed below 500 feet (police are exempt).

    You can fly over private property at any height but they cannot lurk, hover or invade privacy. Just like someone can take a picture of your house but they cant set a camera there for days, you are entitled to "reasonable" amount of privacy, not absolute. You cannot shoot a drone out of the sky, it’s now a federal crime. Most drones can record live video so think twice about shooting it down, the pilot will have a remote copy in his hands which he can show the police.

    All drone pilots even just those using it for fun are now required to take a safety test. If you plan to use your drone for commercial purposes, even just to sell your house or wedding videos, you need to get a part 107 license. You cant fly over crowds of people, over moving vehicles, prisons, restricted airspace, or within 5 miles of a major airport without FAA authorization through the LAANC (Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability) system. No city can forbid you from flying on your own property. Only the FAA can tell you what you can and cannot do.

    In the next 2 years, the FAA will be putting in a system that will track all drones and require all drones to have a digital ID. Most of the major manufacture are already equipping their drones with this technology, there just is not a system in place yet.

    Finally let me just say this, 99% of most drone pilots are NOT trying to spy on you. They want to take stunning shots of cities and landscapes which is what the cameras are designed for. No one really wants to see some 40 year old hag sunbathing nude in her backyard while her Duck Dynasty gun toting husband is busy boinking his neighbors under age daughter in the above ground Jacuzzi to the sounds of Tucker Carlson.

  14. david parisi on June 16, 2022 at 7:33 pm

    The drone ceiling should be 500′ at that height the encroachment would be negligible. Property owners should have the ultimate rights on their land or what effects or comes on or over that land,,,At a reasonable height. The atv thing is a poor example.however,,,maybe the problem should be dealt with at the level that is the height of the operator!!!

  15. PAK Man on June 16, 2022 at 7:33 pm

    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?

  16. HRC IS A SKANK on June 16, 2022 at 7:36 pm

    So FEDERAL EXPRESS is violating the law when they fly a 747 100 feet about their houses that are 5-10 miles north of the airport in line with the runway?

  17. NG Ware on June 16, 2022 at 7:38 pm

    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.

  18. tytto on June 16, 2022 at 7:38 pm

    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.

  19. Maurice Arney on June 16, 2022 at 7:39 pm

    So what if a drone is hovering at window level, looking into your house?

  20. unkown 34X on June 16, 2022 at 7:39 pm

    yeah these things freak me out… so if there’s one in my windows, you god damn right I will destroy it !

  21. KMAM on June 16, 2022 at 7:41 pm

    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.

  22. Teeny Canoe on June 16, 2022 at 7:46 pm

    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.

  23. 2Bluzin on June 16, 2022 at 7:47 pm

    Why would I want to spy on you with my drone? I cant stand looking at you even on the ground!

  24. Mike Wolosz on June 16, 2022 at 7:47 pm

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

  25. realamerican 1 on June 16, 2022 at 7:49 pm

    How come no one mentions you must register all UAVs with the FAA. Plus your responsible for all dsmages caused by crashes

  26. T.K. Ammons on June 16, 2022 at 7:50 pm

    Not sure anyone has caught this & I’m really not trying to play ‘spelling police’…just sending you an fyi. At approx. the 2:00 mark in your video, the word *drone* is misspelled. It’s shown as *drown*.

  27. Scottie1040 on June 16, 2022 at 7:51 pm

    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.

  28. Robert Halterman on June 16, 2022 at 7:51 pm

    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..

  29. Robert on June 16, 2022 at 7:51 pm

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

  30. Thomas Just on June 16, 2022 at 7:53 pm

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

  31. Robert on June 16, 2022 at 7:56 pm

    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.

  32. Whooperguide on June 16, 2022 at 7:57 pm

    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.

  33. Trails End Farm on June 16, 2022 at 7:58 pm

    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.

  34. Matthew Neale on June 16, 2022 at 7:59 pm

    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.

  35. mrdave2112 on June 16, 2022 at 8:00 pm

    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.

  36. Ralf Hildebrandt on June 16, 2022 at 8:02 pm

    A possibility might be to jam the drones signals. Not that easy, but if you succeed who will proof it was you?

  37. abuaseel01 on June 16, 2022 at 8:03 pm

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

  38. Robert on June 16, 2022 at 8:04 pm

    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.

  39. G-Z-M on June 16, 2022 at 8:04 pm

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

  40. Darla Ballard on June 16, 2022 at 8:07 pm

    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

  41. Ray Parker on June 16, 2022 at 8:07 pm

    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!

  42. Alex Torres on June 16, 2022 at 8:09 pm

    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…

  43. valkry007 on June 16, 2022 at 8:10 pm

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

  44. Implicit Bias on June 16, 2022 at 8:10 pm

    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.

  45. KronikX on June 16, 2022 at 8:12 pm

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

  46. Andy Bawn on June 16, 2022 at 8:13 pm

    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.

  47. Anna Banan on June 16, 2022 at 8:13 pm

    Drones are recording devices – they should be treated like predatory voyeurs and illegal trespassers the MOMENT they cross PRIVATE property airspace. An ATV on your property does not have the ability to record you or upload those private data to the masses like drones are capable of so making that illegitimate comparison is stupid. It should NOT be up to homeowners to discover and prove that drones are peeping in their homes and hovering over their children, recording them and selling the video to who knows who. You don’t know what kind of mindset is behind that device but having recording devices and cameras built in, they are NO LESS a threat than ANY stranger who enters your ‘space’ to take video of you. It’s another matter if you are in public – but while on your personal property, inside your own property boundaries you have RIGHTS that limit what law enforcement can do without your permission. How is it drone users get what the law prevents law enforcement from doing without a warrant? There are criminals who are preying on women and children, on homeowners to rob them or upload images they’ve taken. In the same manner a PUBLIC restroom is decidedly, legally, PRIVATE space that prohibits the use of cameras and recording devices in those rooms, so should a homeowners PRIVATE space be that is the boundaries they pay taxes for. If you must fly a drone, do it in PUBLIC space over PUBLIC lands dedicated to drone HOBBYISTS and AWAY from residential HOMES with people who have their rights protected from WARRANT-LESS SEARCHES by government and law enforcement. Being a private individual should NOT garner you more entitled access than the police have.

  48. HRC IS A SKANK on June 16, 2022 at 8:14 pm

    You dont own the airspace above your house or yard

  49. Jane Book on June 16, 2022 at 8:15 pm

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

  50. Emese Jasinski on June 16, 2022 at 8:15 pm

    Oh my God I need help

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