Believe it or not, it may soon come time for your community association to begin discussing the best ways to properly address and regulate the use of drones within the property by residents, guests and outsiders alike. As a bit of background, drones are currently permitted by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) – without approval – if the aircraft weighs under 55 pounds, steers clear of heavily-populated areas (e.g., stadiums), and is to be used purely for non-commercial purposes. Larger or commercial drone use requires a permit from the FAA, which is only available in a limited set of circumstances.
For the average residential property owner, recreational drone use may already be a trending topic at the community pool and community association boards may wish to consider the pros and cons of this technology before over-regulating or banning it all together.
When considering whether to enact comprehensive drone regulations, begin by considering the pros and cons of the issue. Drones can be highly beneficial to those engaging in recreational photography or research. Likewise, realtors often use drones (with FAA permission, of course) to provide potential buyers an opportunity to view a certain property from angles previously unavailable.
In addition, community associations may even benefit themselves from the use of drones to help inspect damage, survey developing areas, or even drop off important documents or gifts to residents.
On the flip side, drones could present a safety hazard to guests and residents in the event a newly-minted pilot has not yet learned the ropes of operating unmanned aircraft – which, of course, exposes the property to liability. Likewise, a community association looking to use a drone to conduct business could face backlash from more private residents who are fearful of intrusion upon their right to be left alone.
These factors, and many more, should be weighed by a thoughtful community association board before over-regulating or under-addressing the drone trend – which is likely here to stay.
If regulating drone use seems to be a prudent measure for your community association, begin by considering the current drone use by residents and outsiders. In other words, if drones are already an issue for your property, it may make sense to implement stricter and more precise guidelines than those properties that have yet to see their first drone fly by.
First, determine whether drones should be allowed to fly or land in common areas, which present the highest risk of injury to congregating residents. If the property is large enough, it may make sense to limit drone usage to certain areas where the aircraft is less likely to cause damage. Second, be mindful of the inherent dangers that can occur when a drone lands and consider appropriate guidelines as to when, where, and how a drone may land on the property.
For some, it may be best to require residents to land drones on their own driveways or yards, as opposed to common areas. Lastly, it may be advisable to amend the governing documents to disclaim any liability that occurs as a result of drone usage within the community. In the event an injury occurs and the governing documents are silent as to drone use, the association could face exposure for allowing the practice to occur on the property without adequate safety measures in place.
If you would like to discuss the best ways to address the use of drones within your community, please do not hesitate to contact Griffin Alexander, P.C. to speak with an attorney who is knowledgeable in New Jersey and New York Community Association Law right away. You can reach our New Jersey office by calling (973) 366-1188; the New York City office by dialing (212) 374-9790; or the East Brunswick office at (732) 514-6601.
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