Having a drone fly over your house and property can be very frustrating. Perhaps your neighbour has got a drone, and they fly over your house regularly. Are they allowed to do that? Hopefully, you can civilly speak to them and get them to consider your privacy and preference for them not to fly over your property. Unfortunately, some neighbours and drone pilots do not listen to this request, and you may find yourself in a very frustrating stand-off with a drone pilot.
The easiest way to stop a drone flying over your house is to speak to the drone pilot and ask them to avoid the airspace above your property. If they do not listen, you can make a complaint to the local police. Taking matters into your own hands can land you in hot water for property damage.
It can be very tempting to take matters into your own hands by shooting down the drone with a laser / projectile or by catching it with a net or other device. The longer a problem goes on, the more you may consider using a more aggressive tactic.
Unfortunately, if you decide to take matters into your own hands, you can end up being charged with damage to personal property and liable for the cost of the drone replacement. Even if you suspect the drone was spying on you.
Even though pilots need to respect a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy – there are the right and wrong ways to go about things.
What the law says about stopping a drone from flying over your house – is it an invasion of privacy?
Most states in the United States of America allow landowners to use reasonable force to eject trespassers.
Therefore, the ultimate legal question is whether or not the drone can be considered a trespasser and if shooting down a drone with a gun or net constitutes reasonable force.
Whether or not a drone is trespassing depends on whether your state or local area has passed laws that define the airspace above your property as protected. This protected zone is sometimes known as a buffer zone.
Another thing to consider is whether or not the drone was flying at an altitude that limited full enjoyment of your land. That’s the US Supreme Court’s definition of the protected “buffer zone.”
If you can make a reasonable argument that you believe the drone was trespassing, the next question is whether or not reasonable force constitutes damaging the drone.
Because the law is slowly catching up to the realities of drone technology, this question will need to be figured out and argued by a lawyer. There are very few cases at this time that can guide the courts on whether or not damaging someone’s drone over private property is criminal.
Legal examples from around the world – local law enforcement
In Australia, some actions by drone operators can be considered criminal offences. For example, in Queensland, Australia, it is illegal to record somebody without their consent if they are in a private place or conducting a private act.
Drones can also fly over areas that can be considered trespassing. Trespassing involves the interference with your rights to private enjoyment to the land which means that your house and land around it are protected from drone flight.
The ongoing cat and mouse game between drone technology and legal precedent will no doubt continue into the future. But there is no doubt that flying a drone to capture somebody in a private location without their consent is certainly an infringement on privacy. Pretty much every law-making country agrees on this one fact.
1. Speak to the pilot
The first thing you should consider if you want to stop someone flying over your house is to speak to the pilot if you want to ask them to stop flying over your property. See if you can speak directly to the owner of the drone.
Quite often, our neighbour or someone in the neighbourhood is flying their drone over our property. Unless you live near a place of natural beauty, it is very likely someone in your neighbourhood causing the issues.
I have often found that drone interactions with the general public can get heated very quickly.
Approaching your neighbour and asking them to stop flying over your property could quickly turn into an argument about laws and local regulations. Even if they are permitted to fly above your property, it still may be your preference that they do not.
Asking politely involves following these steps:
- please make sure you are clear about exactly what you do not want them to do. Do you want them to stop flying over your property completely? Or do you not want them to do it at certain times?
- Asking directly for what you want and watching your tone will help. Understand that this person is not doing something to annoy you, and giving them the benefit of the doubt when approaching will mean your tone is friendlier.
- Be prepared for no. When we ask something of someone, we are not often prepared to hear no. Our egos can quickly get in the way and start a fight. If they say no, it is time to look at other options. You can also tell them your next steps if they do not stop flying over your property.
Can my neighbour fly a drone over my house?
It is likely that your neighbour is not breaking any laws by flying over your house. As long as the drone is not harassing you by getting close to people or infringing on any trespassing or privacy laws, they can fly directly above your house.
A drone that repeatedly flies over your house can be considered a trespass unless it flies at a very high altitude. You could ask your neighbour to ascend to the maximum legal altitude before flying over your property.
A high altitude will ensure that you are not bothered by the noise or the site of the drone, and it will push the drone high enough so that it cannot detect any detail of people or property.
Apply for a no-fly zone with the federal aviation administration
If you have an area of natural beauty near your house or even an airport boundary, you could consider applying for a no-fly zone or an extension to the boundary. Unfortunately, no-fly zones are not currently available for people to apply for private property. Contact your local authority for more information about areas of natural beauty.
However, suppose you are near national parks, schools, or other sensitive areas. In that case, you could reach out to your local flight administration authority and ask for them to put a no-fly zone around the area of interest.
No-fly zones are typically automatically avoided in drone software such as DJI’s Go app.
Geofencing uses GPS and navigational satellite signals to prevent drones from flying near secure areas automatically. When I have tried to take off in geo-fence areas, my drone refuses to launch.
I have gotten my drone to take off by using the hand signals and controls programmed into some DJI models. However, as soon as the drone takes off and realizes that it is in a GPS-restricted zone, it will land as soon as possible.
Asking your local flight authority to create a no-fly zone around an area near your house will act as a deterrent for drone pilots.
Put up signs and flyers to show that there is no right to fly
You are entitled to place “do not fly” signs around your property and other anti-drone signage. It’ll be good to make it look as official as possible to make sure that you keep drones away and ensure no drones over your property.
Perhaps drone pilots are not familiar with your local area and are regularly flying over your property. You can tell people your preference by placing highly visible signs on the boundary of your property that clearly states that drone flight is not permitted.
There are plenty of online manufacturers of industrial signs which will happily sell you know drone zone signs.
The presence of a sign does not make it illegal to fly over your property, but it does signal to drone pilots that your preference is that they stay clear of your property’s boundaries.
Use a Signal Jammer
It is possible to jam a drone signal by using a disturbance signal to disrupt the communication between the drone pilot and the drone. If you want to know more about whether or not it is possible to jam a drone signal, check out my full guide – click here to be taken to the article.
Jammers work by sending out a much more powerful signal than the remote controller. You can jam radio signals and flight data as well as any video link connection. Jamming aims to distort the signal to a level where the receiver is completely unable to detect it or achieve system breakdown. This is one way to legally stop a drone and hijack communications.
Unless the government authorises you, it is unlikely that you will be able to purchase a significantly large drone jammer.
There are plenty of laws and regulations which can overlap with the drone jamming technology and plenty of communication laws that cover the disruption of communication frequencies open to the public:
“No person shall willfully or maliciously interfere with or cause interference to any radio communications of any station licensed or authorized by or under this chapter or operated by the United States Government.”
— 47 US Code § 333 – Willful or malicious interference
This code means that the person operating the jammer will have to be licensed and authorised by the federal government.
If you were to use a drone jammer on a drone, you risk causing the drone to fall out of the sky and therefore cause property damage and personal injury. This level of interference could open up the opportunity for people to sue you based on the damage you can cause using a drone jammer.
You may be able to jam a drone signal by purchasing a drone remote control and using a signal booster to confuse any nearby drone. However, this is unlikely to work if the drone is not significantly closer to you than the pilot.
Catch it in a net – disabling a drone
If you do not want a drone flying over your house and want to minimise damaging the drone, you could use several technologies involving nets. Much easier to do if the drone is hovering.
Catching a drone in a net means that it will not damage the drone, and it will not crash on any people or property. To use a net efficiently, you need to either shoot the net into the air with a parachute to slow the descent or purchase a drone to fly the net towards the rogue drone. The irony of that last sentence isn’t wasted on me, by the way.
Even scientists have looked at using nets carried by other drones for catching rogue drones. Intercepting the target and safely returning it to the ground requires plenty of skill and practice. If there is a drone flying over your property, you will unlikely want to build up the necessary piloting skills for doing this.
Shooting it down
You may be very tempted to take down a drone by shooting it. However, you have to be very careful about the legalities around firing an unmanned vehicle as it is illegal in many states and countries.
Shooting down a drone also has other dangers associated with using a firearm. I would not recommend this course of action to anyone looking to remove a drone from their property.
Is it illegal to knock a drone out of the sky?
It is illegal to knock a drone out of the air. Causing damage to private property using a projectile to knock down a drone can make you liable for the cost of a replacement drone and any damages caused by your actions.
You are only allowed to use reasonable force to eject trespassers. It would need to be argued that the drone was causing significant privacy invasion and trespassing, resulting in the use of reasonable force to mitigate that threat.
To understand what a drone can see at different distances, check out my other in-depth article where I go through everything that a drone can see – this may give you more of a grounding on what a drone could see and whether or not it counts as an invasion of privacy. You may be surprised by how little a drone can see at various distances.
Drone complaints to the FAA
One of the last options you have if someone does not stop flying over your property is to put in several complaints to local law enforcement officers and council officials.
In many countries, you can lodge a complaint based on several criteria. These criteria include reporting someone for the unsafe operation of the drone, noise complaints, and privacy and security concerns. A lot of jurisdictions enable you to lodge complaints online, by phone, or by post.
If you suspect someone of breaking the drone flying regulations, you should make a complaint as soon as possible. You may notice that drones are flying closer than 30 m to people. They may be flying in restricted airspace or at night, overpopulated beaches, parks, houses, sports ovals, or public venues.
Recording the incident on your phone will also help you provide evidence to the local authorities.
How to stop drones from flying over your house – Summary
in this article, we have gone over everything you can do to stop drones from flying over your house. The best and most efficient way is to approach the offending pilot and calmly ask them to avoid flying over your property. Many drone pilots want to do the right thing, and they will happily avoid your property. If it happens regularly, I recommend buying some drone signs which clearly state that they should not fly over the boundaries of your property.
Shooting down the drone in any form is not the best course of action. Unless you can prove without a shadow of a doubt that the drone was trespassing or infringing on your privacy, knocking it out of the sky will result in criminal prosecution and make you liable for the replacement of the drone and any other damages that may have occurred.
Should the drone pilot still fly over your property collecting evidence and then reporting the drone pilot to the authorities will be the long but most effective way of stopping drone pilots from flying over your house and property.