Can Community Associations Regulate Use of Drones?
Drones are the latest craze to hit the market and chances are someone in your community has a drone, or your community deals with a vendor that uses drones. Drones are small, unmanned aircraft that respond to the commands of a remote operator or follow a pre-programmed trajectory. They are technically known as “unmanned aerial vehicles” or “UAVs”. Initially developed by the military, drones are now available to the general public and are used by many businesses and individuals alike.
As drone technology develops and evolves, it is important for your Community Association’s rules to develop and evolve to protect the health, safety and welfare of residents.
A Community Association’s authority to regulate drone usage on its common property is based on the language of its governing documents. The Master Deed, Declaration and/or By-laws likely provide the Board of Directors with authority to adopt rules and regulations governing the use of Common Property. Further, the governing documents likely authorize the Board to ban, restrict or limit activity which could be considered a nuisance, among other things. Under these circumstances, the Community Association would have the authority to regulate the use of drones within the community.
Any rules and regulations promulgated by a Community Association would be in addition to federal, state and local restrictions. It is important for Community Associations to understand those restrictions and how they impact the use of drones within the community.
Current Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) regulations, provide that drones must, among other things: (i) weigh less than 55 lbs. (including any attachments such as a camera) if utilized for non-commercial purposes; (ii) be registered and marked; (iii) fly below 400 feet; (iv) fly within visual line-of-sight; (v) fly in clear weather conditions; and (v) never fly near other aircraft or over people.
The New Jersey legislature banned the use of drones in all its state parks, without specific permission. The use of drones is also prohibited at certain sporting events and near airports. Beyond this, your municipality may have regulations or ordinances regulating or banning the use of drones.