In this age of advanced technology, things that were never considered a possibility are becoming a reality. The use of drones for private and commercial purposes is one example. The technology for development and the use has progressed to the point that individuals and commercial enterprises are now using and/or experimenting with the possible use of drones for many purposes such as taking photographs and delivering packages. In fact, recent news reports reflect that the use of drones is proliferating and are invading neighborhoods across the country and have been seen flying into air space above private residences.
Recognizing the advances in drone technology, many authorities have opined that it is only a matter of time before their use becomes integrated into our personal and business lives. That integration process will include the use of a drone in various ways that relate to condominiums and common interest developments that are controlled by a homeowners association. Thus, HOAs need to be prepared to deal with the issues that they will be required to address concerning the use of a drone within their communities, such as: (i) the legal requirements for the use of a drone; (ii) should they adopt specific policies or rules that regulate the use of drones within their community; and (iii) steps that can be taken to minimize potential liability resulting from an incident involving a drone.
HOA management personnel should familiarize themselves with local, state, and federal regulations and/or guidelines that relate to the use of drones for private and commercial purposes. On June 21, 2016, the FAA published its Summary Of Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule (Part 107), a copy of which may be viewed via the link set forth at the end of the article. Additional helpful information concerning the use of drones for private and commercial purposes can be found on the website maintained by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Given the fact that drones have not been around for long, it is doubtful that association governing documents contain provisions that pertain to the topic. Thus, it would be prudent for HOA boards of directors to consider amendments to their governing documents that cover the topic and/or the adoption of policies and rules that regulate the use of drones assuming the associations board is granted rulemaking authority in the associations governing documents. Topics to consider should include: (i) ramifications of operating a drone in common areas; (ii) the risks of claims and liability resulting from injuries to person or property; (iii) designated landing sites; (iv) time and noise restrictions; (v) use restrictions; and (vi) indemnification of the association by others who use a drone.
While there is a lot that can be learned by board members acting on their own in reviewing information that is available on the topic of drones, the adoption of amendments to their associations governing documents and/or the creation of polices and rules relating to drones should not be undertaken without assistance from the associations legal counsel.