Merry Dronemas: How to Keep Your Neighbor's Drone Out of Your Backyard This Holiday Season


According to some statistics, approximately 400,000 drones were purchased as Christmas presents in 2015, so there's a good chance your neighbor may come into possession of one this holiday season. The laws regulating drone usage is still being hammered out, but there are things you can do to prevent your neighbor from intruding on your privacy using one of these machines. Here's what you need to know.

Talk to Your Neighbor

At first glance, drones may seem innocuous, until you realize people can attach cameras and other surveillance devices to them. So even if the machine never enters the airspace above your property, your neighbor could still invade your privacy in other ways. In an era where people will do anything for social media fame, the last thing you want is some embarrassing thing that occurred in your backyard to end up on YouTube.

Therefore, it's a good idea to talk to your neighbor the first time you see him or her using the machine. Politely express your concern about the possible invasion of your property and ask the person to avoid flying the drone in your yard or pointing any surveillance equipment in the direction of your home. Drones can produce a lot of noise, so you should also discuss times when your neighbor can start using the machine and when he or she should put it away in the evening.

Most people are reasonable and will take your concerns into consideration, so having a heart-to-heart chat with you neighbor may be all that's needed to resolve the issue. If you're unfortunate to live next to someone who is inconsiderate or uninterested in respecting your privacy, you can use one of the following legal options to address problems that may crop up.

Sue Using Private Nuisance Laws

People have the right to the peaceful enjoyment and use of the space they own or rent. If another party intrudes on that right in some way, the property's occupants can file a lawsuit to stop the offender from continuing to be intrusive.

Private nuisance laws are more commonly used to handle issues such as barking dogs, pollution, and foul odors. However, you can also use them to keep your neighbor from flying the drone in his or her backyard if the machine is intruding on your right to enjoy your property.

As noted previously, drones can make a lot of noise when they're flown; a fact that can be used to make a case against your neighbor's use of the drone. To win your case, however, you must show several factors:

  • The defendant acted intentionally, negligently, or recklessly.
  • The interference with your enjoyment is substantial. The court uses the reasonable person standard when evaluating complaints: would a reasonable person find the disturbance inconvenient, annoying, or discomfiting?
  • That it is unreasonable to expect you to bear the defendant's actions. The courts look at whether the plaintiff should accommodate the defendant's conduct and to what extent. For instance, the court may expect you to tolerate the drone noise if the defendant only flew it once per month but not if the person flew it every day.

Depending on the circumstances of the case, the court may restrict the person from using the drone near your home and/or award you compensation for the nuisance if warranted.

Sue for Invasion of Privacy

The second option is to sue for invasion of privacy. This is particularly useful if you have evidence your neighbor took pictures or captured video of you. The specific law you would use is intrusion upon seclusion where you are essentially accusing your neighbor of "peeking inside your curtains." To win a case based on this law, you would have to show the defendant used the drone to invade your private affairs (e.g. took pictures of you) and that a reasonable person would find the intrusion objectionable.

The good thing about this particular law is that the person doesn't have to transmit the pictures or video to a third party. Proving the intrusion itself is enough to win the case.

For more information about or help with this issue, contact local resources like Burke Schultz Harman & Jenkinson Attorneys at Law.


19 December 2016

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