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Can You Fly a Drone Over Houses?

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You live in a densely-packed residential area and have recently gotten into flying drones. Thus far, you’ve only flown your drone around local parks, but you’d prefer to do some practicing in your neck of the woods as well.

Can you fly a drone over houses?

Per FAA rules, you should be able to fly a drone over someone else’s home. However, you should take this responsibility seriously and never invade someone’s privacy with your drone. Don’t operate your drone recklessly either.

You probably still have some questions about what’s allowed versus what isn’t when it comes to flying a drone over houses.

This guide will clarify everything so you can safely fly your drone without the risks of fines or even jail time! 

What does the FAA say about flying a drone over houses? #

For those new to drones, the Federal Aviation Administration or FAA is a United States agency established by the government to regulate national airspace. 

FAA rules are for far more than drones but all sorts of aircraft. Of course, for the purposes of this blog, we’ll focus on FAA rules only as they apply to drones.

The FAA allows drones in uncontrolled airspace, which is defined as airspace that doesn’t fit into any airspace class. This airspace is also “below 400 above ground level.”

In other words, you have to keep your drone within 400 feet to stick within the allowed parameters. 

That does indeed permit you to fly your drone over houses in your neighborhood and even adjoining neighborhoods if you wanted to. 

Okay, but we’re sure you’re wondering, if someone owns property, then doesn’t that include the airspace above their property as well? 

Technically, no, it does not. Instead, the federal government owns that airspace. Thus, a homeowner doesn’t have a claim to the airspace even if it is on their property.

That goes for your own property as well!

What about state and local laws? Do FAA regulations supersede these laws? #

If you read our drone law series for all 50 states in the US, then you’ll recall that most states have at least some state laws and that many of them have local laws as well.

These laws can prohibit the usage of commercial and recreational drones around private property.

Agency drone pilots, also known as government pilots, such as law enforcement are usually the exception.

Now you’ve got some mixed messaging. You have FAA rules telling you that it’s okay to fly over someone else’s house and state and/or local laws telling you that you cannot.

Who’s right in this situation?

The FAA, as a federal agency, supersedes state and local laws. If you read through enough drone laws, you’ll recognize that many of them admit as much.

Do we still recommend that you brush up on your state’s drone laws, including both state and local laws? Yes, you should.

After all, just because you’re allowed to fly your drone over someone else’s house doesn’t mean that the other facets of state and local laws do not apply to you.

They absolutely do, and disobeying drone laws is a wonderful way to watch thousands of dollars vanish from your bank account as you’re fined for your behavior.

Much more seriously, you could be put behind bars for periods of six months to a year and sometimes even several years.

None of that is to even mention the damage that having a drone-related crime will do to your criminal record. 

Drone crimes are often misdemeanors but can sometimes be felonies if you have repeated infractions or happen to commit a truly nefarious crime with your drone. 

Those crimes usually entail weaponizing a drone or transporting drugs with the device, not flying it over someone’s house. 

What if someone threatens to shoot down my drone or call the police? What do I do? #

Now, just because you’re allowed to fly your drone over someone else’s property doesn’t mean they’re going to like it.

Most people who don’t own a drone have no idea what uncontrolled airspace is. They may not even be familiar with the FAA.

Thus, as much as you might try to explain that you’re perfectly within your rights as a drone pilot to fly where you are, this person might not believe you.

Worse yet, they may become belligerent, threatening to shoot down your drone or call the police.

So how do you handle such a situation?

Well, as we’ve talked about on the blog, it’s never wise to shoot down someone’s drone, whether that’s with a rifle, a slingshot, a handgun, a BB gun, or anything. 

If your neighbor shoots down your drone, that counts as a federal crime. They could get into very serious trouble.

Now, they can call the police if that’s their prerogative.

Don’t necessarily expect the police to know the drone laws either. You should have documentation ready to prove that the FAA grants you permission to be there.

That said, just because legally you can fly in this airspace does not make it the best idea.

Your neighbor clearly doesn’t want you there, and if they’re getting the police involved, it’s best to just peacefully exit.

In the future, you should avoid flying in this area as well so you don’t draw the ire of your neighbor. 

Never do these things if you can fly a drone over residential property #

Uncontrolled airspace is anything but lawless. Under the FAA’s rules as well as various state and local laws, you should never do these things when flying your drone in your neighborhood.

1. Fly the drone past the point where you can see it #

The FAA requires pilots to always keep their UAV within their visual line of sight.

While your visual line of sight does permit vision-enhancing devices such as glasses or contacts, it does not allow binoculars.

Thus, if your own two eyes cannot see your drone, you’re disobeying FAA rules.

Bring your drone back immediately. 

2. Use the drone recklessly #

Responsible operation of a drone is a must.

Any careless or reckless behavior such as flying your drone too high or too low to the ground, flying it too close to other people or property, or otherwise following poor drone etiquette goes against the FAA’s guidelines. 

3. Operate the drone under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol #

Just as you should never get in the car and drive if you’ve imbibed substances such as drugs and/or alcohol, you shouldn’t operate your drone either.

A drone is not as dangerous as a car driven under the influence but is still anything but safe.

You can cause catastrophic property damage and injury and possibly collide with other aircraft if you venture outside of your designated airspace.

If the police catch you operating your drone in such a dangerous fashion and you’re under the influence as well, you could face severe repercussions. 

4. Fly the drone over moving vehicles or people’s heads #

Once your drone is low enough that it’s hovering above a moving car on the road or lingering over someone’s head, it’s too invasive. You could cause an accident or an injury.

5. Invade someone’s privacy with the drone #

There’s a difference between flying over someone’s house with your drone and using your drone to try to look into someone’s windows. 

The former is mere drone flight while the latter is a blatant invasion of their privacy.

Many states across the US have laws prohibiting voyeuristic, peeping tom behavior.

Whether you’re just using your drone to watch or you’re actively trying to capture footage such as photos or videos, this is a punishable crime and often a misdemeanor charge. 

6. Use the drone to harass someone, be that the homeowner or someone on the property #

Drone harassment can include the aforementioned invasion of privacy as well as using a UAV to spy on someone, stalk them, or cause harm to them. 

It doesn’t matter if the person you harass is the property owner, someone on the property, or even just a passerby. This too is a crime and is typically punishable. 

Conclusion  #

Drones are permitted to fly over houses per the FAA.

That said, if an owner raises a fuss, you should consider using your drone elsewhere just to be on the safe side.

Further, remember to always operate your drone respectfully and responsibly.

Avoid harassing others or invading their privacy, and only operate your UAV when you’re of able mind and body. 


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