Air rights are the property interest in the "space" above the earth's surface. Generally speaking, owning, or renting, land or a building includes the right to use and develop the space above the land without interference by others.
This legal concept is encoded in the Latin phrase Cuius est solum, eius est usque ad coelum et ad inferos ("Whoever owns the soil, it is theirs up to Heaven and down to Hell."), which appears in medieval Roman law and is credited to 13th-century glossator Accursius; it was notably popularized in common law in Commentaries on the Laws of England (1766) by William Blackstone; see origins of phrase for details.
Property rights defined by points on the ground were once believed to extend indefinitely upward. This notion remained unchallenged before air travel became popular in the early 20th century. To promote air transport, legislators established a public easement for transit at high altitudes, regardless of real estate ownership.
New technologies have again raised questions about ownership of "space" and the upward bounds of national sovereignty. With the advent of space travel above earth's atmosphere, the height at which national sovereignty extends and therefore nations can regulate transit is often debated.
In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has the sole authority to regulate all "Navigable airspace", exclusively determining the rules and requirements for its use.Specifically, the Federal Aviation Act provides that: "The United States Government has exclusive sovereignty of airspace of the United States" and "A citizen of the United States has a public right of transit through the navigable airspace." The "navigable airspace" in which the public has a right of transit has been defined as "the airspace at or above the minimum altitudes of flight that includes the airspace needed to ensure safety in the takeoff and landing of aircraft."
The exact altitude(s) at which the airspace over private land can become subject to "substantial impairment" is often debated. Case law in the past has used the height of 500 ft (150 m) in urban or suburban areas, and 360 ft (110 m) above the surface or tallest structure in rural areas as the demarcation of where impairment of property rights can occur. At those times this constituted the limits of "navigable airspace". However, the bulk of more recent decisions, which take precedent, hold that taking can occur regardless of if the flight occurred within navigable airspace or not and only impairment of property need be considered. This is especially important as some aircraft (manned and unmanned) now have no minimum flight altitudes making virtually all airspace "navigable".
Financial compensation is owed property owners when the use of their property is substantially impaired by the federal governmentor by State government , or by the aerial trespasser.
Congress has provided authority for the FAA to provide funds to purchase property interests in airspace (navigation easements) near airports to accommodate planes taking off and landing.
The low cost of unmanned aerial vehicles (also called drones) in the 2000s re-raised legal questions regarding whose permission is required to fly at low altitudes; the landowner, the FAA or both.There has never been a direct challenge to the federal governments vesting of the right for citizens to travel through navigable airspace. As such, the status quo is only permission from the FAA (through regulation) is required. However, existing property rights over private property still allow for civil claims of taking when property use is "substantially impaired" by the use of the airspace. The FAA has also reiterated that it has sole authority to regulate this right.
Railroads were the first companies to realize the potential of making money from their air rights. A good example of this is Grand Central Terminal in New York City, where William J. Wilgus, chief engineer of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad, devised a plan to earn profit from air rights. At first, the railroad simply constructed a platform above the rail yards to allow for the development of buildings overhead. By 1954, the railroad began to realize it could sell more air rights and Grand Central Terminal was proposed to be replaced by a 50-story tower. This is how the Pan Am Building came to be built next to the station, after public protest regarding the demolition of Grand Central Terminal.This approach has been used in Chicago since the construction of the Prudential Building in 1955 above active railroad tracks of the Illinois Central Railroad. In 2017, to the west of the Chicago River, River Point and 150 North Riverside were built above tracks leading to the Amtrak station.
Building on platforms over railroad tracks is still potentially very profitable. In the mid-2000s, New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) attempted to sell air rights to the New York Jets so that they could build the West Side Stadium over Manhattan's West Side Yard, near Penn Station, as part of the Hudson Yards Redevelopment. The Hudson Yards mega-development was eventually built over the rail yard. In Brooklyn, the Barclays Center and Pacific Park have been constructed over Atlantic Yards.
Similar to railroads, builders of highways have proposed selling their air rights; Boston did this in connection with the Big Dig.
The city of Los Angeles funded a $100,000 feasibility study RFP in January 2007 to explore building a freeway cap park in Hollywood. The park would be built above US highway 101 and contain 24 acres (97,000 m2) of new parkland.
The owner of the land has the exclusive development rights in the 'space' above his lands. Under common law, building a 'hangover' that breaks the vertical plane of a neighbor's property is a trespass and the property owner has the right to remove the offending structure. The airspace is property and retains developmental rights which can be sold or transferred. Thus in a dense downtown area, each building in the area may have the right to thirty-five stories of airspace above his own property. In one possible scenario, owners of an older building of only three stories high could make a great deal of money by selling their building and allowing a thirty-five-story skyscraper to be built in its place. In a different scenario, a skyscraper developer may purchase the unused airspace from an adjacent landowner in order to develop a broader building. In November 2005, Christ Church in New York sold its vertical development rights for a record $430 per square foot, making more than $30 million on the sale for the right to build in the space over its building.
Visual flight rules (VFR) are a set of regulations under which a pilot operates an aircraft in weather conditions generally clear enough to allow the pilot to see where the aircraft is going. Specifically, the weather must be better than basic VFR weather minima, i.e. in visual meteorological conditions (VMC), as specified in the rules of the relevant aviation authority. The pilot must be able to operate the aircraft with visual reference to the ground, and by visually avoiding obstructions and other aircraft.
In United States constitutional law, a regulatory taking is a situation in which a government regulation limits the uses of private property to such a degree that the regulation effectively deprives the property owners of economically reasonable use or value of their property to such an extent that it deprives them of utility or value of that property, even though the regulation does not formally divest them of title to it.
Trespass is an area of criminal law or tort law broadly divided into three groups: trespass to the person, trespass to chattels and trespass to land.
Airspace is the portion of the atmosphere controlled by a country above its territory, including its territorial waters or, more generally, any specific three-dimensional portion of the atmosphere. It is not the same as aerospace, which is the general term for Earth's atmosphere and the outer space in its vicinity.
Riparian water rights is a system for allocating water among those who possess land along its path. It has its origins in English common law. Riparian water rights exist in many jurisdictions with a common law heritage, such as Canada, Australia, and states in the eastern United States.
An airway or air-route is a defined corridor that connects one specified location to another at a specified altitude, along which an aircraft that meets the requirements of the airway may be flown. Airways are defined with segments within a specific altitude block, corridor width, and between fixed geographic coordinates for satellites navigation system, or between ground-based Radio transmitter navigational aids or the intersection of specific radials of two navaids.
Cuius est solum, eius est usque ad coelum et ad inferos is a principle of property law, stating that property holders have rights to not only to the plot of land itself, but also the air above and the ground below. The principle is often referred to in its abbreviated form as the ad coelum doctrine.
A body of water, such as a river, canal or lake, is navigable if it is deep, wide and slow enough for a vessel to pass. Preferably there are few obstructions such as rocks or trees to avoid. Bridges must have sufficient clearance. High water speed may make a channel unnavigable. Waters may be unnavigable because of ice, particularly in winter. Navigability depends on context: a small river may be navigable by smaller craft, such as a motorboat or a kayak, but unnavigable by a cruise ship. Shallow rivers may be made navigable by the installation of locks that increase and regulate water depth, or by dredging.
Florida v. Riley, 488 U.S. 445 (1989), was a United States Supreme Court decision which held that police officials do not need a warrant to observe an individual's property from public airspace.
Penn Central Transportation Co. v. New York City, 438 U.S. 104 (1978), was a landmark United States Supreme Court decision on compensation for regulatory takings.
Navigable servitude is a doctrine in United States constitutional law that gives the federal government the right to regulate navigable waterways as an extension of the Commerce Clause in Article I, Section 8 of the constitution. It is also sometimes called federal navigational servitude.
The United States airspace system's classification scheme is intended to maximize pilot flexibility within acceptable levels of risk appropriate to the type of operation and traffic density within that class of airspace – in particular to provide separation and active control in areas of dense or high-speed flight operations.
This article describes the graphic conventions used in Sectional charts and Terminal area charts published for aeronautical navigation under Visual Flight Rules in the United States of America. The charts are published "in accordance with Interagency Air Cartographic Committee specifications and agreements, approved by the Department of Defense and the Federal Aviation Administration".
The Supreme Court decision in Illinois Central Railroad v. Illinois, 146 U.S. 387 (1892), reaffirmed that each state in its sovereign capacity holds permanent title to all submerged lands within its borders and holds these lands in public trust. This is a foundational case for the public trust doctrine. The Supreme Court held a four to three split decision that the State of Illinois did not possess the authority to grant fee title to submerged lands held in the public trust as navigable waters.
St. Louis v. Myers, 113 U.S. 566 (1885), was a motion to dismiss for want of a federal question to give jurisdiction regarding Acts that admitted Missouri into the Union while leaving the rights of riparian owners on the Mississippi River to be settled according to the principles of state law and relinquishing to the City of St. Louis the rights of the United States in wharves and thoroughfares, which did not authorize the city to impair the rights of other riparian proprietors by extending streets into the river.
United States v. Causby, 328 U.S. 256 (1946), was a United States Supreme Court Decision related to ownership of airspace above private property. The Court held that title to land includes domain over the lower altitudes. The United States Government claimed a public right to fly over Causby's farm, while Causby argued such low-altitude flights entitled the property owner to just compensation under the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment." The findings were two-fold. The court rejected the United States Government's assertion to "possess" and "control" airspace down to ground level, and it nullified the doctrine that property extends indefinitely upward.
Air sovereignty is the fundamental right of a sovereign state to regulate the use of its airspace and enforce its own aviation law - in extremis by the use of fighter aircraft.
The United States was the first jurisdiction to acknowledge the common law doctrine of aboriginal title. Native American tribes and nations establish aboriginal title by actual, continuous, and exclusive use and occupancy for a "long time." Individuals may also establish aboriginal title, if their ancestors held title as individuals. Unlike other jurisdictions, the content of aboriginal title is not limited to historical or traditional land uses. Aboriginal title may not be alienated, except to the federal government or with the approval of Congress. Aboriginal title is distinct from the lands Native Americans own in fee simple and occupy under federal trust.
The US Federal Aviation Administration has adopted the name unmanned aircraft (UA) to describe aircraft systems without a flight crew on board. More common names include UAV, drone, remotely piloted vehicle (RPV), remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), and remotely operated aircraft (ROA). These "limited-size" unmanned aircraft flown in the USA's National Airspace System, flown solely for recreation and sport purposes, such as models, are generally flown under the voluntary safety standards of the Academy of Model Aeronautics, the United States' national aeromodeling organization. To operate a UA for non-recreational purposes in the United States, according to the FAA users must obtain a Certificate of Authorization (COA) to operate in national airspace. In December 2015 the FAA announced that all UAVs weighing more than 250 grams flown for any purpose must be registered with the FAA and in December 2019, the FAA proposed a ruling requiring all unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to be equipped with a device to identify them citing “All UAS operating in the airspace of the United States, with very few exceptions, would be subject to the requirements of this rule".
The Drone Federalism Act of 2017 is a bill introduced in the 115th Congress by U.S. Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) on May 25, 2017. The bill would "affirm state regulatory authority regarding the operation of unmanned aerial systems (UAS), or drones."
Transferable Development Rights (TDR)