Airspace Over Your Property – How Much Of It Do You Own?

CYA Disclaimer: The following is intended for reference purposes only and not as legal advice. The short answer is, “as much of it as you can use”. No, you cannot float a “No Trespassing” blimp and shoot down passing airliners for trespassing. But believe it or not, you can build a tall building on your property and the airlines can’t make you take it down even if it interferes with air traffic – unless you can find a law (such as building codes) that expressly prohibits you from doing so. By federal law, upper airspace is considered “navigable”, meaning the public has the right to use it. But what exactly is “upper airspace”? In the foregoing example, if you built a tall building on your land and the airline were overflying your property at altitudes lower than the height of your building (and in the same vicinity), it would be possible for you to sue them for trespassing.

It would also be possible for you to sue for nuisance even if the planes didn’t even overfly your airspace, if the planes were making enough noise to interfere with your “quiet enjoyment” of your property. Keep in mind, though, that if you live near an airport, the airport has probably already purchased the right to make as much noise as they want. If you don’t know about any such purchase, it’s probably because these rights were purchased from a previous owner of your property.

I’ve got some good news, though, if a new airport is being built near property you own – you might be able to make them pay for the right to pollute your airspace with noise, regardless of whether their planes will be overflying your property or not. If the airport is government-owned, you could claim that the noise constituted a “taking” of your property and although you couldn’t stop them from doing it, you could demand “just compensation” (note that the legalese is in quotation marks). If the airport is privately owned, you could file a claim under nuisance law and force them to choose between either continuous liability under nuisance law or settling with you in lump sum for the reduction in the value of your property.

Real Estate Law in Plain English explains real estate law without the legalese.

10 Responses

  1. I like the blimp idea. Hmmmm I wonder if Goodyear would mind if I borrowed one;D

  2. Hmm. If my hobby is letting helium balloons go and ‘popping’ them with a laser (can’t discharge a firearm in the subdivision), then I have the right to destroy a low-flying (under 500 feet) drone that interferes, right?

    Actually, it’s time for states to pass laws giving homeowners the absolute right to destroy an airborne device flying lower than 500 feet over his property.

  3. I don’t understand the widespread irrational and belligerent attitude towards remote-controlled aircraft. I (responsibly) fly remote-controlled aircraft over my own land, over my friends land, or from public parks or flying-fields. Sometimes I fly with cameras- not for surveillance, but because the view from above is so spectacular and amazing.

    RC aircraft, UAVs and the overly mis-applied term ‘drones’ are completely harmless unless some clown shoots one down, and it crashes into somebodies house, car, or person. I worry a lot more about the irresponsibly fired bullets striking innocent neighbors downrange…

    These flying machines aren’t going to sneak up on you. The helicopter types make a LOT of noise, so it won’t be hovering outside your bedroom window without you, your neighbors, and all the nearby dogs noticing it.

    Nobody has the legal right to shoot down any flying vehicle. (So how do you know for sure that its actually “un-manned”? ) It just might be flown by the neighbor kid next door. Does it make you feel like a big macho he-man to blast a kids toy out of the sky? Really!! Grow up. At most, you may file a “nuisance” claim in court. Thats about it Rambo…

    I worry a whole lot more about all the kids walking down the sidewalk with iphones, cameras etc. Its a whole lot easier to just walk up to the side of a house to be a peeping-tom than it is to precisely fly a remote-controlled aircraft from a distance. …just think about it with your own brain for awhile- if you can remember how…

  4. Ron From Tn,

    You raise some interesting points. I would think that if you continue to fly your “drones”, as most people call them now, over your own land or land where you have an implied right – then your little UAV will be in no danger of being shot down by me. If it comes over my land though rest assured I will have a crack at it with my bow.

    You note that you can’t understand why the widespread attitude to these little suckers over private land is negative – and that these widely held views are irrational and belligerent. I would put it to you Ron that it is the people holding the controls of the UAV’s that are belligerent because as you point out they are not welcome by most people so by flying them over someones land without permission is by definition ‘belligerent’.

    With respect to what right anybody has to knock one of these things out of the sky – I am keen to test the law on it. I am taking the position that if someone wants to press the point for me damaging something (that would most likely be mine as it would be on my land in my possession), then they can go down whatever path they like. If you find a package on your doorstep – do you assume it is yours? The idea that I can remove your right at common law to enter my property – but you can fly a vehicle in – is absurd.

    Also thanks for the heads up on the attitude of the UAV community – now I don’t care if it does belong to a kid or not.

    I actually agree with Jtom in that there should be a restriction on their use – unless a landowner wants to waive that right to let them fly over.

  5. If I see a so called drone over my house. Bet your ass that person flying it will never see it again. I don’t care if no cams are on it or not. I don’t know and don’t care. Fly one over my home. You just lost money. And once I find out who owns it. I will press charges on that person. And I will sue them for everything they have or will have. So if you buy one for your kid. Be ready for what will happen. Yeah I feel so much better now. So now maybe some will read this and think wow I won’t do that . But I do promise. Who ever flys one over my home. You will be broke your credit will be destroyed. You will be working just to pay me. And if I see one flying over me or family in public. I will take that as a threat it will be taken down. I’m a 2 time heavy combat vet. As far as I know a gun is on that thing looking to kill people. Justice will be served with all so called drones.

  6. John Davis, you have issues man. I hate to tell you, because someone flies a drone over your house, the court will not indebt them to you for the rest of their life lol. Are u even serious? Take a xanex man.

  7. To the a$$hat who told John Davis to take a Xanax: If you fly a drone over my house then I WILL shoot it down and HOPE that you try to come looking for it! I own a large amount of property because I want PRIVACY. I also own the AIR RIGHTS to that property and that makes YOU a TRESPASSER! I have the right to enjoy my property without YOU hovering over it trying to see what I have worth stealing or trying to get photos of my young grandkids you perverted POS! YOU have NO right over MY property because I pay for it! I don’t care about courts but I will shoot your a$$ if you dare to try to come onto my property in ANY form – whether it be mechanically or personally. Damned bleeding heart PC liberal apologists have allowed these thumbsucking idiots to think they have the right to whatever they want, wherever they want, whenever they want and we are done putting up with it. You keep on flying your precious drone wherever you want because one day soon you will fly over the wrong yard and you will end up eating through a straw for the rest of your life or simply beaten to death. Newsflash: The world does NOT revolve around YOU.

  8. regarding air space- it’s time to ban WIND CHIMES!!!!!! I just took my neighbor to court for the third time. the first time was to ask for an injunction to make him take them down. result: dismissed without prejudice. after asking him to take them down he put more up and began stalking me and shaking them on still days all throughout the day. second time in court for punitive damages I was awarded $5000.00. he was issued a cease harassment order which prevented him from manually shaking them. third time in court for different charges and compensatory damages is yet to be determined. fourth time in court if he doesn’t stop will be the right to the quiet enjoyment of life and unauthorized use of air space.

  9. more people need to use this defense when it comes to their neighbors nuisance of wind chimes in small claims court!!!

  10. […] malls you shop at, all these places are governed by real estate law. Real estate law even covers a certain portion of airspace. You see, when you buy property, you also buy the rights to the airspace above that property, up to […]

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