HOA drone policies need to quickly catch up to the ever-increasing use of hobbyist drones as well as commercial ones in the very near future. If you don’t have an HOA drone policy in place yet, it’s not too late. Drones in HOA communities will be an issue that your association will have to handle in increasing numbers, so it’s best to be prepared.
Why Is an HOA Drone Policy Necessary In a Community?
Drone regulation in an HOA is a matter of resident safety, but it’s not just that. There’s the issue between flying a drone and invasion of privacy to consider, as well. A drone that’s not in the right place at the right time can be the trigger of a potential conflict in the neighborhood. A drone that causes accidental injury or property damage will definitely start an issue, one which may require the HOA to intermediate.
On the other hand, you have to balance the need for drone safety policies by giving drone owners the freedom to enjoy their hobby. It’s not just the hobbyists that your HOA drone policy might affect, either. You will also need to consider that many property management services now use drones in their line of work. Drones are now also seeing more and more use in property inspections, real estate, landscaping, and surveying applications, as well.
5 Tips to Create Your HOA Drone Policy
Drafting an HOA drone policy could be a whole new area that your community management team may not have previous experience with. Fortunately, there are a few drone laws that can serve as your basis as your board comes up with your HOA drone rules.
1. Look to Government Agencies for HOA Drone Policy Guidance
Drones in HOA communities, even if they are flown over private areas, are not exempted from government regulations. Depending on the state that your community is in, many of the existing drone laws may be too specific for you to base your HOA drone policy on.
Fortunately, you can refer to existing drone regulations in an HOA from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the U.S. that you can use as a guide. It’s always a good idea to check with your state laws before drafting up an HOA drone policy of your own since some of the state bills may supersede HOA policies.
In Nevada, for example, drone owners have a right to operate their drones that overrides the Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions (CC&Rs) of an HOA, with a few exceptions. That means an HOA in that state cannot, for the most part, prohibit the use of drones except in a few cases.
For now, most of the national codes for operating drones are being set by the FAA. So whether you are a drone operator yourself, or you’re a community planner looking to draft an HOA drone policy, it’s important to know the FAA’s current rules.
As a general rule, the current FAA regulations will help you and other residents determine if a drone operator is using their drone in a legal manner. A drone operator that oversteps their rights to fly their drone should be reported to local law enforcement as soon as possible. There are separate FAA rules for hobbyist and commercial drone pilots, too, so it’s also important to make that distinction as you draft your HOA drone policy.
2. Make an HOA Drone Policy That Address Privacy Issues
Invasion of privacy is perhaps the main issue many HOA residents have. It’s important for your HOA drone policy to anticipate and address the privacy concerns that camera drones can pose to your community.
In this regard, the existing FAA rules do not go into much detail on what constitutes an invasion of privacy when it comes to drones.
That’s where existing privacy rules come into play, and you as a community planner should make it a priority to adapt them. In the case of drones equipped with cameras, microphones, and other surveillance equipment, your HOA board could look into “peeping tom” laws and how they apply to remote spying using drones.
3. List in Detail What Drone Owners Can Use Drones For
Drone operators are mainly interested in what your HOA drone policy actually allows them to do, so it’s only fair that you spell out in detail what they can and cannot use their drones for. Can they use their drones for imaging? How about delivery? When and where can they fly their drones, and for how long?
Many communities prohibit drones from flying within a certain distance of common areas, like swimming pools. It helps to specify the specific days and times that drone use is allowed, as well.
4. Require a Drone Flight Application and Insurance
It can be hard to come up with a comprehensive HOA drone policy that covers all use cases. One good way to control drone use on a case-to-case basis is to require drone pilots for flight clearance.
Some HOAs use the flight application process to include a disclaimer, as well. In these kinds of disclaimers, the drone owner agrees to hold themselves liable to any damage caused by their drone and frees the association from additional responsibility.
To make sure that drone owners can compensate for any harm that the drone causes, it’s always a good idea to require them to submit proof of insurance for their drone activity.
5. Spell Out Drone Owner Responsibilities
It’s a good idea to use your HOA drone policy as an opportunity to educate drone pilots about their responsibilities. The current lower age limit for flying hobbyist drones is set at 13 years old, so it’s a good idea to explain to flight permit applicants what their responsibilities are.
Take the time to explain to drone pilots that they can act within their rights as drone owners, but once the board deems that their drone flying poses a safety threat, they can be reported to local law enforcement. The board can also file a complaint to the FAA for any misbehavior, and the drone owner can face steep penalties or even have their pilot permits revoked.
A Clear HOA Drone Policy Keeps Your Community Safe
Drafting up an HOA drone policy takes effort and a good deal of research, but it’s worth it to keep your community residents safe. Looking to start an HOA drone policy for your community? Let us know how we can help.
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