Eye in the Sky

Eye in the Sky

Lately in my neighborhood there has been a humming noise going around that sounded different from the chirping of crickets and buzzing of mosquitoes typical on a summer night in North Carolina. Someone is enjoying a new drone and flying about our community. While there are professional and governmental uses for such devices, I suspect my neighbor is just using it recreationally. Even so, there are new specific FAA rules that go into place August 29, 2016 that regulate the use of these drones.

The new sUAS regulations (small Unmanned Aircraft Systems) provide that unmanned aircraft must weigh less than 55 pounds and limits drone operation to daylight hours, maximum speeds of 100 mph, and a maximum height of 400 feet. The drones should not be flown within 5 miles of an airport, near stadiums or other public events. The drones should only be flown outside and not over any person who is not directly participating in the operation. The drone must yield the right of way to any other aircraft. Operators must maintain a visual line of sight with their drones and have a remote pilot certificate, or be under the direct supervision of someone with a remote pilot certificate, which requires passing a (yet to be devised) written aeronautical knowledge test, but is substantially less onerous than obtaining a pilot’s license.

Although some of the regulations address privacy concerns, there are still questions about a landowner’s right in the airspace above his property. The Supreme Court hasn’t addressed the issue since 1946 when it ruled a North Carolina farmer could assert property rights up to 83 feet in the air and win compensation after low-flying military aircraft disturbed his cows and chickens.

For more information check out the FAA’s website.

-Bradley A. Coxe is a practicing attorney in Wilmington, NC who practices in Personal Injury, Car Accidents, Medical Malpractice, Contract and Real Estate disputes, and all forms of Civil Litigation.  Please contact him at (910) 772-1678.