Can You Shoot Down Drones Flying Over Your House?

In Kentucky a self-described “drone slayer” was arrested after shooting down a drone in his backyard. The man said that the drone was hovering over his teenage daughter, who was sunbathing. The criminal charges were later dismissed when witnesses testified that the drone was flying below the trees.

Image Source: gizmodo.com

Image Source: gizmodo.com

In 2014, a New Jersey man faced unlawful weapons charges  for shooting down a drone over his property.

Surprisingly, even in Texas, you cannot shoot a drone. In Houston, Texas, KHOU 11 News verified that drones can fly over your house anytime. However, filming with the intent to capture video of that person in a manner that can be construed as surveillance could be a violation of Texas law.

Firefighters in upstate New York even blasted a drone out of the air with water when they saw it filming them fighting a house fire.

The popularity of personal drones has also spawned concerns over privacy, so much so that Popular Mechanics published an article on How to Shoot Down A Drone. But Shooting down drones is always problematic because the shooting poses many nuisance and safety issuesBullets could miss the drone and come raining down somewhere else or even hit another unintended target.

In the old system of British common law, courts enforced the notion of “ad coelum et ad inferos,” literally meaning “to the heavens and to hell.” This meant that a property owner had rights to everything above his land and everything under it. However, this concept has mostly disappeared from American law.

The main problem is that the law in most places has not yet caught up with new drone technology – small hovering crafts that can fly far closer to your home than an aircraft. The FAA only requires commercial drone operators to register. But FAA regulations allow municipalities to set their own codes for recreational flyers or hobbyists.

Image Source: smith.edu

Image Source: smith.edu

The city of Garfield, New Jersey recently passed a new law that will only permit hobby drone operators to fly their aircraft over their own properties. Flying above other residences, commercial zones areas, roadways, government or public buildings and property, and parks throughout the city will be banned. Exceptions will be granted to emergency personnel and non-profits, for scientific research and at athletic events, and private company owners within their own borders. Garfield’s new law will also require drone operators to register and pay a fee each year with the city clerk.

If you’re concerned about drones being flown over your property, consider lobbying your city or state for new regulations.

What About Civil Lawsuits Against Annoying Drone Operators?

What if you have a neighbor who refuses to stop flying drones over your property even though you asked nicely?

Image Source: komando.com

Image Source: komando.com

Investigate your local city or state ordinances to see if any of those have been violated. These might include noise ordinances, “peeping tom” laws, etc. And you can consider filing your own civil suit with potential claims like:

Trespass: Generally, homeowners own the immediate air rights surrounding the top of the home, although it is not clear “how high” that goes.

Private Nuisance: This is a claim that the drone is disrupting the quiet use and enjoyment of your home. It might be caused, for example, by any noise made by the drone, your inability to sunbathe outside due to fear of being filmed, etc.

Invasion of Privacy: You generally have a right to privacy on your own property, in contrast to having no right to privacy in a public park or sidewalk. This means nobody can photograph or film you in your home through a window or while you are in your backyard sunbathing nude or in a swimsuit. And it certainly means others cannot publish or sell those photos!

However, bear in mind that your damages in such a civil suit are likely to be extremely limited, unless you’re a celebrity whose photos were sold for a lot of money or whose career was financially damaged by their publication!

What do you think? Should the FAA or local cities enact more robust laws protecting homeowners from nosy drones?

11 comments on “Can You Shoot Down Drones Flying Over Your House?

  1. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    • Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
      2 Swords Protection on

      The problem there, Tom, is that the additional weight of adding a firearm to the drone reduces flying time significantly. And you also have to remember Newton’s first law of “equal and opposite” reaction that probably sends the drone flying backwards uncontrollably across the sky right after the projectile is launched. So many technical obstacles…so little time….

      Reply
  2. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Billie Piper on

    Your post has some good insights. Our firm has used many of these legal tactics as well – NirwanLawCorp.com

    Reply
  3. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Jacob Allen Aikey on

    So you are saying that local governments can make up their own rules to prevent a licensed aircraft from flying FAA regulated airspace? I’d love to see that stand up in court. Will these rules also apply to me when flying my paramotor? Because a paramotor operates in the same airspace that license drones would operate in. Or helicopters? The are also permitted to operate in the same below 400 feet airspace as the drones and paramotors?

    Reply
    • Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
      Shawn Keith Godwin on

      My surveillance camera caught a drone flying over my property and hovering about 2am about 9ft from the ground is that against law.in my front yard can I shoot it down I seen it two other times.

      Reply
  4. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    2 Swords Protection on

    In US v Cuasby, the government ruled that private airspace over your home ends at 365′ AGL. Since unmanned remote control drones must fly under 400′ (unless near a structure that tall or taller), there is a 35′ “no-man’s air” at which drones could fly (above 365′ and below 400′) where no law currently governs their behavior or use so long as they are not interfering with other aircraft or in controlled air space. You probably can’t get a lot of great sunbathing pictures above 365′ feet. So if you’re flying a drone low enough to see the tan lines where the bikini top was, you are probably about to get sued or the police may be called accusing you of criminal trespassing. So THINK before you fly.

    Reply
    • Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
      Joe on

      WRONG, you own absolutely 0 airspace above your home, I can fly 10feet over your entire backyard and you cant do a damn thing about it because its airspace regulated by the FAA muppet. I do get excellent teetee shots too its great! Love my drone, dont lay outside naked if you dont want people to see. Hell had a neighbor who’d do it all the time with her sister and Id sit on my back porch which is a 2nd floor balcony and watch beer in hand ahh yes. Cant stop me because its legal, she liked it because she would leave the bathroom window open and shower as well. What a great woman!

      Anyway I love my drone its great for taking pics of your wife sunbathing and completely legal! so get wrecked muppet!

      Reply
  5. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Hidden Witness on

    I’m 63 and I bought my drone to get me out of the house on nice days and photograph our rolling farm land.

    When I see all the good these little aircraft can do, search for missing people, deliver medication, inspect bridges, I was overwhelmed at the hate focused at these remarkable devices. Even more horrific is people shooting them down and the local police doing nothing to stop them.

    Privacy is the first thing these looneys bring up. Do I really want to see your 400lb. wife naked, I don’t think so. Your 16 year old daughter, she’s probably busy sexting her boyfriend who, in a few months, will post it on the internet.

    Do these wonders of genetic evolution realize the Government monitors every phone call and computer site they visit? Do they realize anyone can go on Google Street View or Google Earth and get a good look at their home? You can bring a loaded, concealed firearm in our parks but not a drone.

    Yes, I know they represent a danger to aircraft, so do Canada Geese, but that’s a simple fix. If they’re big, carry Hellfire missiles and kill civilians, the looneys love them.

    All I find are articles outlining how to restrict drones, build jamming devices, new shotgun amo designed to rip through the carbon fiber airframes. American has turned into a nation of psychopaths.

    Well, like skateboards, that were hated in the 80’s and now part of the Olympics, use of drones are here to stay. And next time you set you sights of your beloved shot gun on a 90mph drone covered with electronic adaptive camouflage, it might just shoot back.

    Reply
  6. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Steven S Mehal on

    There has to be better laws governing the use of drones.we had an incident recently where a drone was flown right through our living room window shattering it. The drone was still operable and was flying around our living room before I grabbed it and smashed it. I called the police and they said I could be in trouble for doing that. That’s absolutely ridiculous! The police caught the kids that were goofing around with it and prosecuted them but still, I don’t care what the law says if a drone comes after me personally or enters my home it’s fair game! I don’t think any court in the land would dispute that. If they do, there better be some changes in the laws!

    Reply
  7. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    James Thompson on

    The best course of action is to consider whether you would like someone to violate your privacy with a drone. If not, then don’t violate someone else’s privacy. Excercise decorum when flying. Don’t make enemies when flying your drone and you won’t get the cops or the F.A.A. called on you. If you do get reported you can show where you were obeying the law. And respecting others privacy.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.