Actually, the case law suggests that you are entitled to the airspace above your land necessary for the reasonable use and enjoyment of the land itself, in addition to whatever airspace you can reasonably use.
Originally Posted by notalawyer
This article gives a nice over-view of the concepts. And while admittedly light on cites, does have a couple of critical examples. To wit:
A popular maxim in regards to this concept is, “Cuius est solum, eius est usque ad coelum et ad inferos” which basically translates to: “whoever owns the soil, holds title all the way up to the heavens and down to the depths of hell“.
Within the legal world, this maxim is described as “the traditional starting point of property law” and it is considered to have been instrumental in shaping what we understand as property law today. ...
Its first use in court is attributed to the case of Bury V Pope in 1587, during which the maxim was cited as justification for a large structure being erected that blocked out the natural light to another property owner’s home. Since back in those days there was no such thing as the “right to light” (essentially the right to not have the flow of natural light to your home impeded), it was decided that the building of the structure was entirely legal, since the owner of the land owned all of the air above his land too.
Today, the maxim is still used as a guideline. However, as a property owner you only really have the right to the airspace above your land located in the lower stratum, the precise boundaries of which are not explicitly labelled. In the end, you are supposed to be entitled to enough airspace to reasonably enjoy the land below that air. However, exactly what this means is up for debate. For example, you can’t ask commercial planes to stop flying over your house, because the sky is considered to be a public highway....
You could potentially, however, prosecute an overzealous news helicopter for hovering over your house if it was impeding your enjoyment of the land. ... there have been instances of people being fined for trespassing for flying over someone’s land; so it’s not unheard of in US or British law....
The most famous case of this kind comes from 1945 when a chicken farmer named Thomas Lee Causby sued the US government for flying approximately 83 feet above his property, the noise of which caused a bunch of Causby’s chicken’s to accidentally kill themselves by running into walls. Causby won his case and the courts agreed that although a property owner wasn’t entitled to own all of the air above their land, they were entitled to enough so that planes flying overhead wouldn’t kill their chickens. ...
Today... the United States has a similar estimation of about 500 feet, though this has never been officially ruled on by the Supreme Court.
As another data point note that--except those near airports--a ham radio antenna can be 200 feet tall before needing to be registered with the FCC and FAA. So I think a strong case that no government agency expects property owners to accept aircraft overflight below 200 feet in most cases.
Additionally, federal regs set a minimum flight height--other than take off or landing--over congested areas as 1000 above the highest obstacle within a 2000 foot horizontal radius of the aircraft. So that is 1000 feet above my second story chimney, or my 199 foot ham tower, as the case may be.
Time will tell how the courts rule on drones.
But courtesy and respecting others' rights to privacy in their homes and yards seems a really good starting point. Most communities have ample public parks or other open space where operation of a done won't intrude into the lives or yards of homeowners.