Apple is cracking down on drone use near its offices (AAPL)

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Apple is cracking down on drone use near its new Apple Park campus in California, Apple Insider reports. Security guards working for the company are telling drone operators around the area that they must take their drones out of the air. 

For context, Apple began construction on the facility back in 2015, and it's attracted a lot of media attention, leading many journalists to use unmanned aircraft to get an additional perspective on the facility. But the area isn't a no-fly zone under Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations, meaning Apple doesn't actually have the authority to tell drone operators to do this.

This is the just the latest incident in an emerging conflict over where and when media companies can use drones. Many media companies are adding drones to their arsenals because of the unique photos drones can snap, helping to fuel overall enterprise drone shipments, which will climb to 154,000 this year from 67,000 in 2015. For instance, CNN now has a team dedicated to operating drones, while the New York Times used a drone to get aerial footage of the war in Aleppo. But this brings these firms into conflict with individuals and other businesses that are concerned their privacy is being infringed upon — a new Texas bill might ban drones from flying over oil refineries and farms, after companies from those industries lobbied lawmakers, complaining it infringed on their privacy and business secrets.

If this trend continues, it's likely bad news for the industry overall.

  • It could limit current drone use and future adoption. Limiting how and when the news media can use drones arguably presents a big challenge for the entire space, since aerial photography is one of the best-established and highest-profile drone use cases.  
  • And it could also lead to tighter drone regulations. The FAA is mandated by Congress to update drone regulations next year. Right now, we expect that they'll move to loosen them, since it's proven that drones aren't dangerous to humans or other aircraft. But if this conflict continues, more businesses worried about protecting their secrets could try and persuade the FAA to make the regulations more restrictive when they're mandated to revise them.

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