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How Close Can Drones Fly to Houses? (Explained)

Some pilots are not able to fly their drones because they live in areas with airspace restrictions. Other pilots don’t own a car, others don’t know how to drive, and others don’t mind commuting to fly their drones.

Residential subdivision near Dallas, Texas

This begs the obvious question: Can you fly your drone around your neighborhood or in any other neighborhood?

You can fly your drone above private property in most states and some local jurisdictions. You must ensure that your drone is not violating any local drone laws when flying.

It’s difficult to provide a straightforward and direct answer to this question because this is a subject that depends on where you live, what your state is, and even which country you are in.

That’s why I will try to address this subject in-depth in this article.

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Flying a drone over your home

While the FAA owns all airspace, you can fly your drone up to 400 feet (the FAA’s altitude limit) above your property without any problems.

Residential house near Dallas, Texas

Since it is your property, you can fly it as low as you like as well.

But that doesn’t mean you are completely exempt from FAA rules. A problem that you might run into if you are piloting a large drone, such as a DJI Phantom or a Matrice, is that your neighbors may file nuisance complaints against your drone if it is too loud.

You also run the risk that they will think you are spying on them.

Your drone is flown above 400 feet around houses

This is not legal. At least, not without a permit.

The Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) prohibits drone pilots from flying over 400 feet. The airspace above that is “controlled airspace” and strictly regulated.

Civil or criminal penalties may apply to drone pilots who fly above 400 feet without the required licenses and permits.

These rules are put into place so that unmanned aircraft do not have any contact with manned aircraft such as planes and helicopters. 

However, if you do have a permit to fly above 400 feet, you’ll likely never encounter any issues with flying over houses.

Just like how planes are so high-flying, so too will be your drone. This will put your drone out of sight and out of mind. 

You can request an FAA waiver here.

How do you determine if your drone is safe to fly in your area? These are some guidelines to help you.

Houses near an airport

The FAA prohibits you from flying within 100 meters or four miles of an airport unless you have an express permit. This means you can’t fly your drone in an area near airports unless you have permission.

For guidance, a good rule of thumb is to refer to Airmap.

» MORE: Airmap LAANC Authorization – How to Apply (Step-by-Step)

Keep in mind that some drones have geofencing and will not take off if you are too close to an airport.

You can sometimes unlock your drone’s geofencing by yourself, but in other cases, you will need to apply for a permit at the LAANC. This is an automated process that usually grants permission within minutes if possible.

What are the local laws for flying over houses?

The FAA regulates drone use in the United States, but states have additional regulations. You’ll find drone regulations in cities and counties and even within some states.

Individuals who wish to take photos or fly a drone from their private property or place should first ask permission from the landowner or building owner. Otherwise, it could be considered trespass.

If you are caught trespassing and are asked to leave, do so. Otherwise, it could be considered “aggravated trespass.”

Normal trespass can only be a civil offense and not a crime and could lead to you being sued.

The United States Constitution comes into effect as well. As previously mentioned, you must get permission to take pictures of private property from private property.

However, if you are on your own property or are on public property, you have the right to take pictures of anything via the 1st Amendment.

Usually, the only expectation to drones and the First Amendment is when you are landing on private property, or breaking a person’s “reasonable expectation of privacy.”

Federally, you’re almost always in the clear. While the Constitution is the overarching law of the land, you might want to check local ordinances to see if anyone is going to give you guff.

The Civil Aviation Act 1976 – Section 76 states:

“No action shall lie in respect of trespass or in respect of nuisance, by reason only of the flight of an aircraft over any property at a height above the ground which, having regard to wind, weather and all the circumstances of the case is reasonable, or the ordinary incidents of such flight, so long as the provisions of any Air Navigation Order and of any orders under section 62 above have been duly complied with.”

Civil Aviation Act 1976

It’s a good idea to check the local laws and airspace concerning flying before you attempt any drone operations.

Airmap is a great resource for you

Before you start flying, make it a habit of checking AirMap and the DJI Flysafe website.

Airfield classifications and airfields change. A once-safe area for flying can quickly become unsafe.

An airfield can be designated as unapproved for flying in the event of an important official visit, military training operation, or another significant event.

Ask around

There are likely to be experienced drone hobbyists in every region. Ask them questions about flying in your neighborhood and make friends.

Pilots are also available online so you don’t need to travel far looking for them. You can find many forums online that allow you to ask questions.

Check our community on DronePilots.

What should you do if your neighbor uses their drone to fly over your home?

Here, we’re changing the script. What if you aren’t the pilot but the neighbor?

Not anyone who flew their drone above your property can be charged with criminal offenses. However, you should first check your local laws to determine your rights in this situation.

You can file a complaint if you discover that drone pilots cannot fly over residential areas. Talk to your neighbor to see if this is possible.

Communication is crucial here. Let them know that propeller noises are annoying and that you prefer that they fly their drones away from your property.

However, if you wish to file a complaint, you will need to provide evidence (photos or videos) of the drone flight.

How can you stop a drone from flying above your home?

You are fed up with drone noise and want it to stop. There are many things you can do.

You can file complaints against the drone pilot if the camera is attached to the drone.

A judge can temporarily stop the pilot from flying their drone in this case. A ban may be imposed for a permanent violation if the pilot is found guilty of repeat offenses.

Trespassing can also be charged. In the United States, even a single tree branch can be seen leaning against your fence. This is considered trespassing. If the homeowner wants to trim it, they can.

If the drone is breaking your “reasonable expectation of privacy,” then you can take action in court.

These are the main reasons you can file charges if the drone is damaged or stolen:

  • It invades your privacy rights
  • It trespassed on your property
  • It made an extreme amount of noise

Conclusion

In most cases, the law will allow you to fly your drone above residential areas. Some countries or states may not allow drones to fly over residential areas. Be sure to check local regulations before you fly.

If you’re a homeowner who’s annoyed by drones’ constant buzzing, you can file complaints and charges against the drone pilot.

It’s best to speak with them first and try to have a conversation. The pilot probably only has good intentions and most likely isn’t trying to spy on you.