As the use of drones becomes increasingly normalized across America, the government is seeking to take advantage of the legal questions the activity raises to increase it’s stranglehold over it’s citizens. In fact, the Federal Aviation Administration is beginning to define the airspace over which it presides as much wider than it already does, granting the feds a backdoor into Americans’ private property.
“According to the Federal Aviation Administration, every inch above the tip of your grass blades is the government’s jurisdiction. ‘The FAA is responsible for the safety and management of U.S. airspace from the ground up,’ said an agency spokesman, echoing rules laid out on its website.
But common law long held that landowners’ rights went ‘all the way to Heaven.’ And today, it’s clear that they have some rights.
After all, developers and even cities sometimes sell off rights to the air above their buildings. And if a neighbor has a tree limb hanging over your fence, you generally can chop it off.
The rise of air travel initially sparked questions about where those rights end and flyable space begins. The issue reached the Supreme Court during the 1940s in a case called United States v. Causby after a farmer brought a suit against the government over low-flying military planes’ taking off and landing from a nearby airport. The planes, he said, forced him out of the chicken business — and he wanted compensation.
The Court gave it to him — and said that a property owner owns “at least as much of the space above the ground as he can occupy or use in connection with the land.”
But even then, the justices didn’t clearly define a precise aerial boundary for landowners — leaving a gray area that Boggs is hoping to clear up for the burgeoning drone market.
‘This industry is growing quickly — and it’s to some extent being stifled by the legal uncertainty surrounding these issues,’ said James Mackler, an attorney at Frost Brown Todd, who represents Boggs.
If tech companies are going to deliver goods to the yards of customers, there will need to be clarity on exactly where a drone can fly. Could a drone delivering a package to your neighbor fly over your yard at 50 feet? Or would it need to descend vertically from hundreds of feet in the air to avoid trespassing on your airspace?
Boggs is asking the court to rule he’s entitled to $1,500 to cover damages to the drone. But more importantly, he wants a judge to decide whether his drone was trespassing on the air over Merideth’s property or if it was flying within the jurisdiction of the federal government.
A complicating factor is that Boggs and Merideth tell different stories about the day in question. Boggs’ suit says the drone was approximately 200 feet above ground, a claim he has previously said was backed up by images captured by the craft.”
Source: Washington Post