Ask LH: Can I Stop My Neighbour From Flying His Drone Over My House?

Ask LH: Can I Stop My Neighbour From Flying His Drone Over My House?
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Dear Lifehacker, our neighbour has a drone equipped with a camera. We have not given him permission to film our residential property and have previously told him we feel it’s an invasion of our privacy. Today at approximately 3pm, he was within one metre of our rear deck (not visible from street). In addition to possibly filming us, the drone was quite noisy. Is this noise pollution? Is it trespassing? An invasion of privacy? Please help! Drone Hater

Ransomware picture from Shutterstock

Dear DH,

As always, please note that we’re not lawyers, nor experts in Australian property law. With that said, it does sound like your neighbour could be breaking a few laws here. Let’s take a look at each of your charges in turn.

First off, your neighbour definitely shouldn’t be filming you in your backyard. Under Australia‚Äôs privacy laws, you are prohibited from recording video in a location that a reasonable person would expect to be afforded privacy. In other words, while public streets are fair game, a private property should be considered off-limits. These rules don’t explicitly include drones but if you are being filmed in your backyard without permission, you still have cause to notify police.

As we recently explained in another article, a landowner owns the air directly above their property in addition to the actual ground. Private aircraft, including drones, are considered to be trespassing when traversing the land near to the surface. In other words, if the drone passes his boundary and floats into yours, he is technically trespassing.

So what about noise pollution? In Australia, domestic noise limitations help to regulate how much residential noise is acceptable at certain times of the day. The volume level doesn’t even need to be potentially harmful to humans: if it interferes unreasonably with the “comfort or repose” of nearby persons, it may be considered a noise violation.

The exact rules on what constitutes “too loud” vary between townships and are set by the local council. Your best bet is to give them a call to find out what the accepted decibel range is for your area. Residents who exceed this noise limitation can be fined — especially if they re-offend after receiving a written warning. If the neighbour’s drone is exceptionally noisy, a complaint to the council could put an end to his flybys.

In addition to all this, there are numerous rules relating to civil/hobby drone use that he is probably breaking. For example, you are supposed to stay at least 30 metres away from people with your drone and must keep your drone within sight while you’re operating it. If you violate these rules, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) can impose infringement notices of up to $8500 per offence.


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  • and you can also then issue a warning to your neighbour that if you catch it trespassing again, you cant help if it ‘falls’ from flight and lands in a body of water.

  • If the quad copter is flying low in your back yard. Low enough for a camera to see into your house you should check outside to see if the owner is peering over the fence or not or is just flying soley by camera. Take photos of this conduct and go to the police, evidence like this is harder to dismiss by the police and they would actually have to do something about the complaint. If this behavior continues I would suggest exiting the house in a way that cannot be seen by either pilot or camera and encourage the use of a baseball bat on said quad copter. Remember this is a device that can cause bodily harm especially if the pilot starts purposely flying close to you. CASA requires that the operator of remote aircraft be a minimum of 40 meters I think it is from another person.

    • The law (and laws in general) concern themselves around the intent.
      If I walk about the streets with lockpicks and a crowbar in my pockets, the police do not have to prove I have broken in anywhere, but that I have shown intent to commit B&E.
      Likewise, if I wander over to your house with a rifle, assuming the police magically appear to stop me, all they have to do is prove that I intended to shoot someone – having a loaded rifle in my possession at the time is considered fairly damning evidence.

      So whilst you are technically correct, no one is going to give that fact much weight in a courtroom.
      Furthermore, if the police action the complaint, depending on the gauged severity of the matter, they may confiscate any PC’s the neighbour has as evidence, and if he’s taken any video footage of the neighbours or their property, it lends more weight to intent and/or criminal offence.

      Either way, our privacy ignoring neighbour could find himself in ever increasing depths of hot water, if he’s not careful.

  • Original Title: How Can I Stop My Neighbour From Flying His Drone Over My House?

    Good answer: Go outside and try and catch some butterflies with your butterfly net.
    And by “butterfly net” I mean “Pool Skimmer”.
    Andy by “butterflies” I mean “new Christmas present”.

  • Lets be clear here this operator is a douchebag, clear violating many laws and general social norms like don’t fly into someones yard if they ask you not too, such is the case with such an easy to get into hobby theres always that one guy ruining for all, now op hates drones because of one douche, well done asshole

  • I foresee a niche market opening up in the consumer market for a backyard deployed AA gun.
    Or at the very least, jammers to flood the drone guidance signals.

    • Modern 2.4Ghz RC transmitters use a jammer resistant frequency hopping signal. Almost impossible to jam with civilian electronics. Also very illegal to deliberately jam.

      But if you were into high voltage electronics and made a Tesla Coil and happened to turn on it’s very broad spectrum electromagnetic shredding signal it may ‘accidentally’ disrupt the connection to the transmitter. This may send it crashing to the earth or straight back to him if it is GPS equipped and has the right software/hardware. Either way drone is gone.

      • You sir, are a genius.
        I love both the application and mental imagery of a Tesla coil ominously sitting in the corner of the back yard.
        Waiting, just waiting.

        If the neighbour has played any version of Red Alert, he’ll be making sure none of the family ventures out into his own backyard.

    • Super Soakers also work once it crosses onto your property. The proof of the pudding though is where it drops once you destabalise it. You definitely want it to land in your backyard after you knock it from the air.

  • I don’t own a drone, but the person has asked this question seems like a crybaby. Sort your life out.

  • One would think that if you can hit it with a cricket ball, its too close and plausible deniability in any accidental property destruction (even if it takes a few goes).

  • Fishing line. Deployed totally within your property. Zero chance of it going outside your property (as may happen with cricket balls, etc). Invisible from a distance or via FPV camera.
    If the drone gets tangled in it and crashes within your property, ooops.

  • Just remember that when you take down the drone (via whatever means necessary), you legally have to throw it back over the fence into the neighbours yard (and pool) – just like you do with overhanging branches.

  • I am a responsible drone operator and situations like this one pull down everyone in the industry. This neighbour needs a wakeup call. If it happens again I would water the lawn, and his drone. We need to get these users out of the sky.

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