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Can You Fly a Drone in a Residential Area?

Residential areas dominate the world, although they often look vastly different from one another as you venture from country to country. Your drone plans may include flying in a residential area.

Can you fly a drone in a residential area?

Drones can fly in residential areas, but you should not launch or land your drone on someone else’s property, as that’s considered a privacy invasion. You’d need permission first. If your drone remains in the sky, you’re free to fly over other properties.

This guide will unpack all the info you need to know about residentially flying a drone, including the rules and some handy tips for safe, enjoyable flights!

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What is a residential area?

Just to get everyone on the same page, what do we mean when we refer to a residential area?

A residential area is a land in which people reside or live. In other words, it’s comprised of cities, towns, neighborhoods, and communities.

Residential areas can include homes, condominiums, mobile homes, apartments, you name it. If people live there, then it’s a residential area.

The residential area you live in may look very different than what I live in, but that doesn’t matter. Residential areas exist all over the world and are an incredibly common sight.

Can you fly a drone in a residential area?

So that brings us to the next question. Can you use your drone in a residential area?

Yes, you can!

You must still hold the appropriate drone license when operating your UAV in a residential area. If you’re in the United States, that’s the TRUST certificate or Remote Pilot Certificate through the FAA.

In the UK, you need a Flyer ID and possibly an Operator ID issued by the Civil Aviation Authority.

You get the picture. The name of the license can change, as can the authorizing body requesting it, but you can’t forego it.

Once you have the right license, you can fly over your own property and begin venturing out onto other people’s properties as well. Many residential areas include uncontrolled airspace, thus permitting your drone to be there.

Now, depending on where you live, state laws may go into effect that prohibit you from getting too close to others’ homes or violating their privacy in any way. If not a state law, then perhaps it’s a local law.

You should always obey those laws when using your drone. If you don’t, you could find yourself punished with a fine or imprisonment.

Also, while you’re fine to fly your drone over someone else’s house, don’t launch or land your drone on property that doesn’t belong to you. You’re invading someone else’s privacy, and that’s highly frowned upon.

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Tips and rules for flying in a residential area

It’s a clear, sunny day. You’ve got your drone, and you’re ready to fly. Before you head out to explore your residential area to the fullest, make sure you read over this section.

These laws mostly apply if you operate a drone in the US, but many of these rules still stand in other parts of the world. Of course, if your country has different drone rules, then defer to those!

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You must have a drone license

It doesn’t matter if you only ever use your drone in your backyard (which we doubt you will, as it can get kind of boring, but anyway): you still can’t fly within a license.

Drone authorities require licenses for your own safety and that of the people around you. If anyone could fly a drone without a license, the skies would be significantly more dangerous. It’d be like if anyone could drive a car without a license.

Since you’re operating your drone residentially, you’ll likely start with a recreational license. The name of this license is the TRUST certificate, as mentioned before.

The FAA doesn’t hand out drone licenses like candy. Even hobbyists have to sit down and take a test to prove they understand the FAA’s current drone guidelines.

The test isn’t particularly hard, as you can see whether your response is correct or incorrect while still testing. The FAA also allows you to correct your TRUST exam answers before you submit the test.

Once you send in your answers, you can apply to receive your TRUST certificate in the mail. When it arrives, you’re ready to fly as often as you like and for as long as you wish.

The TRUST certificate has no expiry date, after all!

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You likely have to register your drone

Getting your drone license is one thing, registering it is another.

The FAA only requires drone registration for UAVs that weigh 0.55 pounds or over. If you bought a toy drone as your first drone, then while you should weigh it, you likely don’t have to worry about registering it.

Once you upgrade to heavier-duty drones, then whether you’re operating your UAV commercially or recreationally, you must register the drone.

Obey state and local laws

We wrote up individual guides for drone rules across the entire United States. If you missed the guidelines for your state, we highly recommend you go back and give the article a read, as we covered all the state and local drone laws that any state has.

Many states strictly prohibit drone use in any way, shape, or form that could constitute a violation of privacy, including spying on, stalking, or harassing others with your  drone.

By the way, trying to fly your drone up near someone’s window and film into their home would count as a violation of privacy, so don’t do that!

Do not fly higher than 400 feet

The FAA strictly limits drone pilots to an altitude of 400 feet. In a recreational area, you should rarely have any need to ascend that high but keep the rule in the back of your mind anyway.

Don’t encroach on others’ private property

Yes, here’s another reminder about violating private property.

Remember, you can fly your drone over someone else’s house without breaking any laws, but you can’t venture onto someone else’s private property to collect your drone unless you have their permission.

Maintain your visual line of sight on your drone

The FAA requires pilots to always keep an eye on their drones. What does this mean? When your drone goes BVLOS (beyond your visual line of sight), it’s illegal to keep flying it.

Your visual line of sight includes how far you can naturally see in front of you when wearing glasses, contacts, or with your naked eye.

Don’t use your drone in inclement weather

The FAA wants you to fly safely, and in poor weather conditions, that becomes much harder.

Check the forecast before you fly. If you see rain, snow, hail, fog, or strong winds on the horizon, do the right thing and postpone your scheduled flight for another day.

Don’t fly faster than 100 MPH

You won’t see speed limit signs for UAVs in your residential area, but drones do indeed have limitations on how fast they can fly. The FAA caps pilots at 100 miles per hour.

Only fly your drone by day (unless you’re permitted to fly at night)

Do exceptions exist for flying your drone at night? Yes. An average recreational pilot likely isn’t exempt, so only use your drone after sunrise and before sunset.

Don’t use your drone when under the influence of drugs or alcohol

You must be of able mind and body to safely use a drone. Any substances that can interrupt that don’t mix with flying your drone, so don’t do it.

How do I stop drones from flying over my house?

Let’s switch perspectives for a moment and look at matters through the eyes of an unsuspecting person in a residential area.

You don’t fly drones yourself and don’t know a lot about them. Well, you know that drones have seemingly taken over the area lately, and now they’ve begun flying over your house. How do you stop it?

The best course of action for stopping drones from flying over your house is to find the drone pilot and have a conversation with them.

Don’t try to take matters into your own hands and shoot down the drone. That’s a federal offense and even though you hadn’t done anything wrong to this point, you could face dire consequences.

If you can’t find the drone pilot or if you can but they don’t want to listen to reason, then you’ll have no choice but to escalate the matter. Document the illegal behavior and contact the police.

If the police deem the drone pilot’s behavior illegal, they’ll take care of matters, usually fining the pilot.

Keep in mind though that a drone flying over your home isn’t illegal. If the pilot uses the drone to invade your privacy or if they step onto your personal property to launch or collect a drone, those things are illegal.

A drone pilot will know their rights, so you must know them too!

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Using a drone in residential areas such as a city, town, or neighborhood allows pilots to accrue good flight experience before broadening their horizons.

You can legally fly about your own property and others’ property, but never violate your neighbor’s privacy. Don’t step onto private property either unless you have permission!