You and your family own a summer cottage in beautiful Downeast Maine. Unfortunately, you and your neighbor have an on-going dispute over some trees on your property which the neighbor complains block his view. Your neighbor owns a drone which he flies over your property whenever you and your family are outside trying to enjoy the brief summer weather. Like clockwork, the drone appears overhead, buzzing noisily, hovering and following you and your family around your property taking video which is then posted on social media.
What can you do? Recent rules adopted by the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) require drones to be registered and marked with their registration number. Flyers also must follow certain safety guidelines, such as not flying near or in a controlled airspace such as an airport, over sports stadiums, higher than 400 feet, or interfere with other aircraft. A recreational drone flyer who intentionally violates any of these safety requirements, and/or operates a drone in a careless and reckless manner, may be subject to criminal and/or civil penalties. Unfortunately, because criminal enforcement of these rules requires federal intervention, that may not be a practical remedy for many people. Moreover, the FAA recommends that violations be reported first to local law enforcement authorities.
Maine has yet to enact specific laws to redress problematic drone misuse. Accordingly, any victim of such misuse must rely on the well-established civil claims such as trespass, invasion of privacy or mental solitude or seclusion, intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress, and statutory violation of privacy (which is a misdemeanor crime). Maine courts have yet to hear cases which test these legal theories as applied to drone usage, so judicial guidance is virtually non-existent at this juncture. The Maine Legislature is considering the problem, and specific laws can be expected in the not-too-distant future.
Should you be victimized by your inconsiderate neighbor’s drone misconduct, please contact us to discuss your options for experienced and aggressive resolution of your problem.
This article is not legal advice but should be considered as general guidance in General Civil Litigation. You can contact us at 207.784.3200. Skelton Taintor & Abbott is a full service law firm providing legal services to individuals, companies, and municipalities throughout Maine. It has been in operation since its founding in 1853.