Are Drones Roaming Overhead?
If you’re hoping that you and your members and owners can keep drones from flying overhead, you’ll be disappointed in what the law has to say on the subject. The controlling law is the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Act. It is Florida’s companion statutes to federal laws that regulate the use of unmanned aircraft, or what we typically refer to as drones.
Section 330.41 of the Florida Statutes provide rules to follow regarding the operation of drones. When talking about the use of drones the law includes any associated elements such as communication links or cameras or the components used to control the device.
A local government may enact local ordinances related to nuisances, voyeurism, harassment, reckless endangerment, property damage, or other illegal acts that may occur from the use of a drone. Because of that right, it’s important for you to learn those specific rules for your area.
You can imagine that there is “red tape” involved in attempting to regulate the use of drones locally. The statutes allow “any person or local governmental entity that desires to restrict unmanned aircraft in close proximity to infrastructure or facilities that the person or governmental entity owns or operates must apply to the Federal Aviation Administration for such designation.” Section 2209 of the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016 governs this requirement.
What does this mean for community associations, HOA’s and other communal property? Basically, the only truly protected areas are those designated as “critical infrastructure”. Community associations and property owned by them not fit within the definition of critical infrastructure. No one may “knowingly or willfully operate a drone over a critical infrastructure facility or allow a drone to make contact with a critical infrastructure facility that is ‘close enough to interfere with the operations of or cause a disturbance to the facility.’”
A critical infrastructure means a place that is completely enclosed by a fence or other physical barrier that is obviously designed to exclude intruders, or if clearly marked with a sign or signs which indicate that entry is forbidden. The signs must be posted on the property in a manner reasonably likely to come to the attention of the intruders and the place is one of the nine types listed in the statute, such as an electrical power generation facility or electrical transmission facility or a prison. Privately owned property, such as association property, is not protected by the statute from the intrusion of drones.