You’re not the smoothest flyer with your drone yet, but then again, you just bought it. You’re afraid to mingle with the other drone pilots in the park, which is why you’ve flown locally, and we mean hyper-locally, like in your yard.
Can you expand your horizons and fly your drone in someone else’s yard?
While technically, you can fly a drone in someone’s yard, you have to do so safely or you’re violating FAA guidelines. Depending on who owns the property, if they have reservations about you flying your drone around their property, they could ask you to stop.
It’s nice to have freedom, and when it comes to flying around your neighborhood, you certainly do, but that doesn’t mean the world is your oyster.
In this article, we’ll talk about the implications of flying in someone’s yard and when it might be time to fly elsewhere.
Can you fly a drone in someone’s yard?
Perhaps it’s a situation like described in the intro, where you’re getting a bit bored with flying your drone in circles around your own yard. You want to fly just over your property line or perhaps a ways over the line to see what your drone can really do.
Maybe you didn’t even mean to fly your drone in someone’s yard, but oops, it happened anyway.
Either way, you don’t have to freak out. The Federal Aviation Administration or FAA for short–which is the governing drone agency in the United States–does not prohibit pilots from operating their drones over private property.
The reason? Your property doesn’t go up into the sky infinitely, so technically, the drone isn’t on your property.
Now, the FAA does prohibit you from doing a whole host of things with your drone around someone’s property, and we’ll talk more about that in just a moment.
For now, just know that you should not behave recklessly with your drone when flying around private property.
Keep in mind that just because you’re legally allowed to do it doesn’t mean that a property owner has to like you flying your drone around their home. We’ll also discuss what to do in that situation later, so check it out!
The risks of flying a drone around someone’s yard
We’re not trying to scare you or dissuade you from flying around someone else’s yard, as you are within your rights as a drone pilot to do so.
That said, for newer pilots especially, the following risks are definitely food for thought!
You could accidentally destroy their property
You’re still figuring out how your drone works, and that means you’re prone to wobbly flight paths, half-completed tricks, and flying at very low altitudes.
If you’re too close to someone’s home while you’re practicing drone flight, you could damage their property.
Perhaps it’s the home’s exterior you chip away at. You could break a window, loosen a roof shingle, or create a large dent in the home’s foundation.
That’s assuming you destroy the home and nothing else in the vicinity. If a drone meets a car, the drone does not win.
You could once again smash windows with your drone, scratch the paintjob with your propeller, and dent and ding up the vehicle.
Other exterior property damage your drone can cause includes broken vases and other outdoor décor, scuffs on the fence or deck, and even chewed-up grass depending on how low you’re flying.
Your drone could crash
You’ve already had a few incidents with your drone. So far, the UAV has come out unscathed, but you know it’s only a matter of time before it doesn’t.
So what happens if your drone crashes when flying around your own yard? It’s no harm, no foul. You can collect the drone, pray it’s still in workable condition, and then resume your flight.
It’s not quite so cut and dried if you crash your drone onto someone else’s property.
Remember that talk about property lines? Well, property lines might not extend into the sky, but they sure as heck do extend around a person’s actual property.
If you walk onto someone’s property, be it their front yard, backyard, side yard, or whatever, that’s technically an invasion of privacy.
The property owner could call the authorities and you would be prosecuted for your crimes, even if you are collecting something that technically belongs to you.
It’s one thing if you know the property owner. You can always explain what happened but expect to get an earful about flying your drone on their property.
Even if you don’t know the property owner personally, you can always knock on their door and ask if you can get your drone back. Just keep in mind there are no guarantees!
The property owner could take your drone
What could happen instead is that the property owner could end up taking your drone and keeping it. After all, it’s finders keepers, losers weepers, right?
Well, that’s not really how it works. The person who finds your drone should hand it into the authorities or elsewhere so it can be reunited with its original owner, but whether that happens is impossible to say.
Do NOT do these things when flying a drone in someone’s yard
We said we would, so let’s delve into these patently illegal activities that you should not do when flying a drone in someone’s yard or elsewhere on property that doesn’t belong to you.
Fly too close to someone’s home
You already know of all the dangers that can befall you and your drone if you linger too close to someone’s home. Just keep a safe distance and stick to flying around their backyard instead.
Try to peer into their windows
Any kind of peeping tom drone activity is usually illegal, and that includes spying on others.
People have a right to privacy in their homes and violating that privacy can be a misdemeanor charge in many parts of the United States.
Record or take photos of what you see in someone’s home
Ideally, your drone camera shouldn’t be active when flying in someone’s yard, as recording someone’s personal property and what they do in the privacy of their own home is often against the law as well.
Fly too close to someone outside on their property
If a property owner or anyone else on the property steps outside, at no point should you harass or follow that person with your drone.
You should also not fly too close to them, and you’re not allowed to fly over their head either.
What if the property owner tells you not to fly a drone in their yard?
Let’s say that someone who lives on the property you were flying your drone around comes outside and sees you with the UAV. They tell you to stop using it on their property.
Technically, you’re allowed to have the drone and fly it where you are. If you want to get into to-may-to versus to-mah-toe levels of debate with the property owner, that’s fine, you can. Just expect the police to get involved, as it will only be a matter of time.
The property owner should never try to shoot down your drone, as doing so is a federal crime and is fully punishable as such.
Why even take the risk? You can avoid the police and a possible firing down of your drone by just leaving.
If you want to keep flying your drone, you can always go back home where you know no one will complain that your drone is too noisy or invasive.
You can also seek out a place elsewhere around your neighborhood and fly there. Just make sure if you’re using your drone in the streets that you don’t fly it over moving vehicles, as that’s illegal.
Parks are another good place to fly a drone, but not all parks welcome drones with open arms. Be sure to look up your local drone rules, policies, and ordinances before you fly so you can be sure you’re in the clear.
You can fly a drone in someone’s backyard since you’re not technically on their property. However, just because you can do it doesn’t mean the property owner is going to like it.
If you do fly in another person’s yard, don’t use your drone to in any way violate their privacy or make them feel unsafe.
Be sure to follow Part 107 rules as well, not flying higher than 400 feet or faster than 100 miles per hour.