Protecting Your Farm From Above

By: Patti Schaefer, Member Services & FARM Program Manager & Ashley Warren, Sustainability and Communications Coordinator 


You may have heard about the mysterious drones that were flying over rural parts of Colorado and Nebraska earlier this year. Luckily, these were test drones from Amazon in an effort to find economic ways of delivering packages to remote locations. However, we know animal activists are using drones to capture footage on farms. Our question for you is, what would you do if you saw a drone flying over your farm?

Different than someone walking onto your farm, these drones have the capability to fly over your property and see everything. Property owners have rights to their physical property, so if someone were to walk onto your farm, you can take legal measures easily to make sure they stay out. However, there is no “definition” for space above your property.

An article by the Southwest News Media states, “The legal rule is that privacy is protected where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy. This has been interpreted by the courts in Minnesota, but there has not been a case directly involving drones…Existing Minnesota law also protects people or property from aircraft operators who are willfully disregarding the safety of persons or property. Aircraft fly over your house every day but the issue becomes how close to your house does there exist a reasonable expectation of privacy” (Dexter, 2015).

Unfortunately, there have been very few cases involving drones and the privacy of a property owner. Animal activists are getting more and more creative in how they get the content they want. Below we have outlined some do’s and don’ts for if a drone is flying over your farm.


What You SHOULDN’T Do:

Not do anything

Unless you are the one operating it, a drone hovering above your farm is not normal. The drone can easily fly over again at any time. Continuing to let it fly over your farm could cause further damage.


Shoot the drone

While this seems like the easiest thing to do, this is a federal offense and can result in a hefty fine. The Federal Aviation Administration considers a drone to be an aircraft. So under Title 18 United States Code 32, it is a federal crime to damage, destroy, disable or wreck an aircraft.


Any other form a destroying the drone

Whether you shoot it or not, any damage done to a drone can result in a federal offense and other consequences.


What You SHOULD Do:

Call your local sheriff

Notify the sheriff there is a mysterious drone over your property as soon as you see it. You might not be the only one who has had a drone flying over their property in the area.


Take pictures and videos of the drone

As soon as you get off the phone with the sheriff, start documenting the drone. Having proof of what the drone looks like will make the process of identifying the operator easier. Record days and times the drone arrives. Also make note of the direction it entered and left the area. What is it taking pictures or videos of? What area are they focusing on? The more information you have the better.


Go find the operator

A drone’s range from its controller varies anywhere from 1-7 miles. They also don’t have the longest battery life, which means they have to be close to your farm. Once you find the drone operator, take pictures right away of the car, license plate and the drone operator themselves.


If you find the operator, call the sheriff back

Let them know the operators location so they can come and investigate. If the operator leaves before the sheriff can get there, share the pictures you took so they can be on the lookout for that vehicle.


Call your Field Representative and/or Patti Schaefer to report the activity.

We are here to help you! This will allow us to report it up the chain and to other members as needed.

First District Association is a member of the Animal Agriculture Alliance. One of the main goals of the Alliance is to protect the agriculture industry by exposing those who threaten our industry with damaging information. They do so by sharing activist activity from across the United States with the industry so we can all be prepared. If you have had or have any suspicious activity on your farm, please contact Patti immediately so the situation can be assessed and decide if any proactive measures should be put in place to protect your farm.

If you have any questions regarding animal activists, please reach out to Patti at 320-221-0381.