Yesterday a new website and database launched called NoFlyZone.org, which invites people to enter their home address to prevent amateur drone pilots from zooming over their property, GoPro running. The database is maintained by a team of 10 people based in El Segundo, California, and led by Ben Marcus, a private pilot and drone operator.
Although it’s completely voluntary for drone companies to agree to honor the no-fly zone requests, at least seven drone hardware, operating system, and component makers have agreed to incorporate the NoFlyZone data into their product in some way. These include EHANG, Horizon Hobby, DroneDeploy, HEXO+, PixiePath, and RCFlyMaps. [Correction: YUNEEC was perviously listed by NoFlyZone as a partner, but it insists it only prevents its drones from flying near airports.]
”It is up to each of those companies to implement and use the data in a way that works best for their technology and customers,” Marcus told Ars Technica in an e-mail. “Some of the companies in our coalition are drone manufacturers who can create a virtual barrier, or geo-fence, around each property. Others, like DroneDeploy and PixiePath, are operating system providers who will make our comprehensive database of no-fly zones available to its end-users.”
Registering your home on NoFlyZone requires an exact address, although if Google Maps turns up the wrong address you can drag the resulting dropped pin to the property you actually intend to add to the list. You must provide a valid e-mail address to confirm registration, as well. NoFlyZone is also working to get addresses of schools, hospitals, military installations and so forth added onto the list to make it comprehensive for drone equipment makers.
Marcus told Ars that in the past 24 hours, more than 10,000 people have registered their properties to the database.
Still, NoFlyZone can’t yet prevent all drones from flying over your house, although Marcus says he hopes NoFlyZone will become more important to drone makers in the future. “The ideal vision is a blend of manufacturer, operator and consumer alliance–through this initiative, we’re opening lines of communication surrounding the safe and responsible use of drones,” Marcus wrote. “As a flight and drone enthusiast, I’m invested in the success of this industry, and know responsible drone usage is paramount in ensuring that future.”
Marcus added that the list of options NoFlyZone offers will likely expand in time, allowing customers to choose whether they’d like to permit package deliveries by drone, but don’t want camera-enabled drones over their property, for example.
[Update: Marcus got back to Ars about some of the issues with NoFlyZone and multiple residencies. His responses are inline in this paragraph.] There are still some details that may need to be meted out. With respect to residency verification Marcus wrote: “We are learning a lot in the first 36 hours post-launch. As we go forward, we will continually seek to improve NoFlyZone and are evaluating if additional residency validation and authentication is necessary. We will include additional residency verification when we introduce the capability to customize airspace access settings, such as to receive packages by drone.” Marcus also said that people who are new residents to a property can remove their property via the NoFlyZone contact page, after they “upload proof of residency, such as a utility bill, or e-mail us from the same e-mail address they used when they registered the property.”
The concept of off-limits spaces for drones is just emerging as amateur drone piloting is gaining popularity. In January, a National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency employee drunkenly crashed a DJi Phantom 2 drone on the White House lawn, setting off a Secret Service investigation and eliciting some chiding from the president. The next day, DJi promised to update its drones’ firmware, adding “a No-Fly Zone centered on downtown Washington, DC” extending “for a 25 kilometer (15.5 mile) radius in all directions.”
”Phantom pilots in this area will not be able to take off from or fly into this airspace,” the company added.