Ben Marcus attracts attention whenever he flies his quadcopter and sometimes he lets the curious take the controls.
During those exchanges, many say this: That’s cool, but what about the privacy issues?
Marcus sensed that the concern about camera-outfitted drones unknowingly hovering over our lives was real enough that it could stunt the potential applications of drones.
So he started a company that will let people restrict their own air space.
NoFlyZone launched on Feb. 10 and already has more than 20,000 homeowners signed up to request drone pilots steer clear of their property.
Like a do-not-call list, people can quickly and easily sign up free of charge on the NoFlyZone website, a move Marcus hopes allays the concerns of the general public.
A poll conducted by Reuters News released on Feb. 5 showed most Americans want regulations for drone operation and 42 percent said they oppose private ownership of drones.
“I think by and large, the drone community is respectful of privacy,” Marcus said. “There really is no reason why a drone should be operated over private property without that person’s permission.”
A no-fly zone for the general public would be difficult to enforce, but Marcus said most drone operators would voluntarily comply. Many manufacturers, Marcus said, support the initiative and would willingly download data into the brain of drones, using geo-fencing technology to automatically avoid certain areas. Airports already use geo-fencing to keep drones out of immediate airspace.
NoFlyZone takes off as the FAA explores regulations for drones and as eager businesses, like Amazon, look to use drones for customer service. Several states are moving to adopt regulations for drones because of privacy concerns
NoFlyZone would allow users to allow access to certain types of drones, like ones used to deliver packages.
“The applications for drones haven’t even started to be contemplated,” Marcus said. “Within 10 years, they will be an amazing part of everyday life. These are legitimate issues and the technology needs to be used in a safe and responsible way.”
Andrew Amato, editor of the website Drone Life, likes NoFlyZone for the “peace of mind” it offers to a nervous public, but doubts whether no-fly zones could ever be enforced or if “uncooperative drones” could be tracked.
“There is nothing to stop someone from flying a drone over your house regardless of whether or not you are registered,” Amato said. “Respectful and educated pilots may comply with your wishes, but first-time fliers, who vastly outnumber experienced fliers, may not even know NoFlyZone exists. Or they simply don’t care.”