“No Fly Zone” is a new service to keep your airspace free from unmanned intruders
image via (cc) flickr user Don McCullough
We may not have those jet packs promised to us by optimistic futurists so many decades ago, but we do live in a world where miniature flying robots have become almost commonplace.
For many, drone flying is simply a fun hobby. For some, it’s a business opportunity. For everyone, the presence of drones is increasingly becoming a fact of life. But while drone flight has been growing in popularity over a number of years, it’s only in the last month that the Federal Aviation Administration released their first set of guidelines aimed at creating comprehensive regulation for this (increasingly not-so) new industry. That’s a good start, but as usage increases, so do questions surrounding privacy and property in an age where anyone can pilot a mechanized flying camera.
With that in mind, aviation industry insider Ben Marcus founded No Fly Zone, an opt-in database which allows anyone to designate the airspace above their house as “drone-free.” Using that database, No Fly Zone’s done-manufacturing partners can program their products to steer clear of designated homes, schools, military bases, and airports. As No Fly Zone’s homepage explains:
Enter your home address and provide basic info. Takes 30 seconds and free for life!
We verify your information and register your address and GPS coordinates in our NoFlyZone.org database.
We coordinate with participating drone manufacturers to automatically prevent drones from flying over your property.
City Metricpoints out the key word here is “participating.” Right now there’s nothing forcing drone manufacturers to comply with the site’s no-fly requests: They do so voluntarily, if at all. This means when No Fly Zone provides GPS coordinates for requested drone-free zones, manufacturers–even participating ones–have a degree of latitude (literally) in how they use that data. As the site’s FAQ page explains:
In its first version, NoFlyZone.org provides to participating drone manufacturers and operators a database of single latitude and longitude points for each NoFlyZone property, as well as information on each of the corners of the property. It is up to those participating drone manufacturers and operators to determine how much space they wish to block around each property.
Which isn’t to say manufacturers are likely to ignore opt-out requests. A number of drone-makers have already signed on to the service. As No Fly Zone explains, they’ve done so to "take a leadership position on drone privacy issues” and to form a “consortium of drone industry participants who respect individual privacy." In effect, No Fly Zone is banking on the drone industry being motivated to get ahead of privacy concerns, rather than wait for potentially restrictive legislation.
It will likely take much more than a voluntarily database to put people’s drone-related privacy concerns entirely at ease. Still, by giving anyone the ability to declare their airspace a drone-free zone, Marcus and his company have taken an important first step.