I get it, there’s a drone in your neighborhood, even over top of your property, that is making you uncomfortable. I will never condone pesky or illegal drone flights, but you still can’t shoot the drone out of the sky, it’s illegal.
I speak today about laws and rules within the United States. I am upset about a random news article of a drone being shot out of the sky, so please forgive me if I go off the rails a little.
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Let me say a few things, and make them entirely clear.
A drone can:
- According to the FAA, a drone is an aircraft. It is illegal to take actions that cause aircraft to crash.
- A drone pilot is a pilot. It is illegal to harass or assault them in any way that puts their aircraft at risk of crashing. That goes for firing laser pointers at them just as much as anything.
- A drone can fly over your property. Under current law, it can even fly into your backyard, it just can’t land and the pilot cannot access your property without permission.
There is more to it, of course, we invite you to check out our Drone laws explanation posts, Part 1 and Part 2, for all the details.
A drone cannot:
- If a drone has a camera attached, all photo and video it captures are subject to the same privacy laws as any other camera. You can’t photograph your neighbors from the bushes using a hand-held camera, these photos are not all of a sudden legal just because your camera has wings.
- Cameras are powerful tools for FPV (First Person View) flights, but a drone still MUST be within direct visual line of sight to the pilot. i.e. If you cannot see into your neighbors backyard from where you are standing, it is illegal to fly your drone into your neighbors back yard.
- A drone cannot fly over top of people.
As well, there are more things a drone cannot do. For now, I’ll simply point you toward the No Drone Zone information, it may well be that a nuisance drone is in violation of flight or airspace laws already.
What can I do?
With these laws alone, it becomes very difficult to determine what is and is not legal with a drone. More important, it makes it very hard to determine what you can do to protect yourself if there is a rogue pilot harassing you.
Here’s the thing, I’ve used derivatives of a word more than once already in this article: “Harassment.”
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There are many, many laws on the books that deal with noise complaints, harassment, abuse, trespassing, violations of privacy and more. ALL of these laws apply to every drone pilot, as pertains to the use of their drone.
What do you do when your neighbor breaks one of these laws? (A drone in the sky above your house is not threatening your life, so let’s take that portion of trespassing laws off the table.)
If you are certain that the drone is violating FAA drone flight rules, the FAA has a hotline, report the drone:
For any other violations, including your privacy or harassment concerns, call the police. In addition, you could gather evidence and take them to court or, contact your community association that may also have rules and repercussions. These can all solve the issue long term, but have you considered a conversation or a written letter to your neighbor?
In the case of a drone over your yard, let me tell you from my perspective, if my drone is over your house, it means I’m taking photo or video of somewhere else. I am not snooping on you, I am just taking advantage of my rights in the sky to get a cool shot of the nature and mountain ranges that cover more than half of the horizon in my neighborhood.
If my drone is causing you grief, a simple request and I would be more than happy to no longer fly over your home.
Better yet, allow me to share the experience with you. I am happy to educate on how drones operate, many of which have very wide field of view lenses on them. Most photos I capture from 200 feet up are simply too far away for the camera to capture identifying facial features. Heck, half my photos from 100 feet up are too far for many drone cameras. Keep in mind, you’ll be able to make out yourself and the people you know, but these photos would not be useful in court, so to speak.
Check it out, flying the DJI Mavic Air at about 150 feet above ground at a lake in Nevada:
Zoom in on us and you cannot make out any details of value. Not really. This is a frame out of a full 360 degree panoramic shot, that’s why the car is double exposed.
My point here is that you may be thinking the drone is violating your privacy, but it is more than likely not violating any laws or even looking at you, it’s just getting on your nerves.
Let me be clear, I am uncomfortable when my neighbors are flying a drone above my house as well, just the same as I am annoyed by another neighbor with a frustratingly noisy car. I can’t shoot the car, and I can’t shoot the drone, and nor can you.
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