By: Mengxin “Esther” Cui
It’s not hard to imagine how great it would be to stand on the peak of a mountain, grab a drone controller out of your backpack, and send your little friend into the beautiful sky. Drones are flying robots that can fly autonomously, and they can film video from picturesque, birds-eye view locations. However, be careful when flying drones because the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has specific rules governing them. This little friend can be annoying and creepy when it is equipped with cameras and telephoto lenses and flies over your property. Especially when it’s controlled by your crazy neighbor who wants to know everything about you. How does the law protect you in an invasive drone situation?
Legal Action for Unwanted Drones
Do not ever try to shoot down, hack, or crash a drone. According to the FAA, a drone is an aircraft, and federal law (18 USC § 32) dictates fines or imprisonment for people who willfully destroy or damage aircraft.
You should first contact the person controlling the drone and ask them to stop flying it over your property. In most cases, they will stop the conduct right away when they realize that it bothers you.
If that does not work, you can raise a private nuisance claim. A nuisance claim stems from one individual intruding on another person’s ability to enjoy their property. To win your private nuisance case in court, you must prove that:
- You either own the land or have the right to possess it
- The noise of the drone interferes with your use and enjoyment of the property, and
- Such interference is “substantial and unreasonable,” and a reasonable person would not tolerate it
If you win your case, you can obtain a temporary restraining order and/or an injunction against your neighbor. He or she will not be allowed to fly the drone.
In addition, your neighbor could be up against harsher charges. The FAA warns that intentional violations of safety rules and/or reckless operation of recreational flyers can result in criminal or civil penalties.
According to the FAA website, there will be regulatory changes for drones in the future. The FAA is upgrading its online system so recreational users can get automated airspace authorizations to fly in controlled airspace. As always, our experienced legal team will keep a close eye on new developments and keep you informed as the regulations evolve. For help taking action against a drone user, or using a drone yourself, contact an experienced Chugh, LLP attorney.