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Drone Videographer Duncan Sinfield: 'Only a Matter of Time' Until Apple Park Shuts Down Drone Flights

Duncan Sinfield says that piloting his drones over Apple Park has become increasingly difficult in the past few weeks, and that he believes it's "only a matter of time until the campus becomes shut-off to drones completely." Sinfield's comment on Apple Park security comes in the text description of a new video that he uploaded today, where he talks about the response that he's been getting to drone piloting over the campus.


The drone videographer says that security "generally responds" to his precise takeoff location "in 10 minutes or less." He speculates that Apple has set up a geofence of some kind and that the company could be tracking all drone flights near the campus in an effort to lower the amount of eyes on Apple Park. He further guesses that Apple might be using technology from a company like Dedrone, which describes itself as "the airspace security platform that detects, classifies, and mitigates all drone threats.​"
This is an extended length video, it's only a matter of time until the campus becomes shut-off to drones completely... with a geo-fence, or something similar. Security at Apple Park generally responds in two white Prius's to my precise take-off locations in 10 minutes or less. While this is speculation, my instincts tell me that Apple is tracking all drones in the vicinity of the campus with sophisticated radio frequency technology from companies such as DeDrone (a San Francisco-based aerospace security company).

As always, I respect all requests by Apple Security to land my drone and leave the area when asked to do so. They are always asking if I'm an Apple employee too. So to all of the Apple Employees watching (and reading), don't fly your drones over The Park, it's frowned upon!
Last summer, multiple reports emerged about Apple Park security's first efforts at stopping drone pilots from accessing the airspace above the campus. Despite those attempts, drone update videos have been consistently uploaded to YouTube by multiple videographers, including Sinfield and Matthew Roberts. Apple Park's latest stance on drones appears to be a bit more strict this time around, and follows a recently leaked memo from the company that warned employees against leaking details about future devices to the media.

Besides the security-focused topic of the description, Sinfield's video today is an extended update providing the usual coverage of Apple Park. The campus looks essentially complete except for a few remaining dirt mounds and empty landscaping areas outside of the main spaceship building and near the Steve Jobs Theater. Apple Park has become increasingly busy since more employees began moving in earlier this year, with the campus providing a backdrop for executive interviews as well as housing CEO Tim Cook's own office.

In another drone video posted back in February, Matthew Roberts captured a drone that malfunctioned and crashed among the solar panels covering the roof of Apple Park.



Top Rated Comments

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27 weeks ago
Can you blame them? It's private property and can become a safety hazard to people walking on campus. There are also privacy concerns of course.
Rating: 19 Votes
27 weeks ago

But Apple doesn't own airspace around campus, do they?


Nope. All airspace is federally controlled. Specifically, Apple Park is under the Class C airspace of San Jose Airport, meaning aircraft cannot enter it without contacting ATC. The only reason why drones are allowed to fly over Apple Park currently is that an exception, called a NOTAM, was requested. The text of the NOTAM:

NOTAM UAS Operating Area SJC_08/052
DEFINED AS .5NM RADIUS OF 371900N1220033W (4.5NM SW SJC)
SFC-700FT (SFC-400FT AGL) DLY 1500-2259 1708171500-1806302259.

We don't know who requested the NOTAM in the first place, but it will expire June 30, and presumably not be renewed by the FAA. That's when drone flights will end over Apple Park, and the reason they will end. But good luck ending the meaningless speculation. This isn't the first time I've tried.
Rating: 18 Votes
27 weeks ago

But Apple doesn't own airspace around campus, do they?


Good point. I’ll come over and hover my drone 10 feet above your house 24/7.
Rating: 18 Votes
27 weeks ago

Apple is becoming like North Korea

Please post your address so we can have drones recording your house and its backyard, and upload them for public watching on Youtube.
Rating: 10 Votes
27 weeks ago
But Apple doesn't own airspace around campus, do they?
Rating: 9 Votes
27 weeks ago

Nope. All airspace is federally controlled. Specifically, Apple Park is under the Class C airspace of San Jose Airport, meaning aircraft cannot enter it without contacting ATC. The only reason why drones are allowed to fly over Apple Park currently is that an exception, called a NOTAM, was requested. The text of the NOTAM:

NOTAM UAS Operating Area SJC_08/052
DEFINED AS .5NM RADIUS OF 371900N1220033W (4.5NM SW SJC)
SFC-700FT (SFC-400FT AGL) DLY 1500-2259 1708171500-1806302259.

We don't know who requested the NOTAM in the first place, but it will expire June 30, and presumably not be renewed by the FAA. That's when drone flights will end over Apple Park, and the reason they will end. But good luck ending the meaningless speculation. This isn't the first time I've tried.



If the pilot is part 107 certified and has an Airspace Authorization for the SJC class C Airspace there isn't much Apple can do. He's operating within his legal authority as an FAA licensed UAS operator. The only exception would be if he was being unsafe in the airspace. Otherwise... there's not a darn thing Apple can do to "restrict" their own airspace, about the only thing they could do is prohibit take off and landing from their property, but if he takes off on a public sidewalk across the street.... tough cookies.
Rating: 8 Votes
27 weeks ago
They owe him a debt of gratitude for the gorgeous videos he made. Beautiful photography, music, and interspersed with Steve Jobs audio.

To be honest, Apple hasn't done a lot to really make me interested in them in a long time (in fact, I sometimes go to archive.org to revisit some exciting moments from Apple's past). But his videos were magical, to borrow an overused term from Tim Cook.
Rating: 6 Votes
27 weeks ago

But Apple doesn't own airspace around campus, do they?


No but the comment above you has some good points.
Rating: 5 Votes
27 weeks ago

If anyone can figure out how to engineer a solar-powered, eco-friendly antiaircraft battery, Apple can.


Sure they can, but if it takes them as long as putting together an update for the Mac mini, flying drones will be safe for a very long time to come... ;)
Rating: 5 Votes
27 weeks ago

Both private homeowners and corporations have successfully argued that they do own the airspace above (approximately 400 feet maximum) for various reasons (privacy and security respectively). I'm sure that Apple wouldn't have any problem getting approval to legally take action against all unauthorized drone flights. Which tells me that they currently do not have the right to take action against drones in flight. I'm sure they are gathering flight data as part of this argument to Cupertino courts for not only security, but also for protecting their secret IP from spying drones.
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Any critical infrastructure "owns" the airspace directly above the facilities to maintain safety and security. Apple could easily argue that they have valuable IP they need to protect from drones spying through those giant windows all around the building. I've even heard of some companies successfully keeping drones from flying over adjacent properties so anything is possible on a case by case basis.


Property owners cannot assert any ownership of airspace. By definition, airspace is public and regulated by the federal government. The FAA promulgates all of the rules of aircraft operation and safety, including separations from buildings, the ground, and people. This does not mean that a property owner can't challenge specific aircraft operations that arguably interferes with their property rights. For example if a pilot persists in circling over a house and watching the owners sunbathe in the back yard, then the owner could file a civil action against that pilot, even if he is otherwise operating in perfectly legal fashion in terms of the airspace regulations. But even if the owner sues successfully to stop the activity, they still will not have asserted any ownership of the airspace over their house.

Critical infrastructure is another matter. These facilities are designated on navigational charges as "prohibited" or "restricted," with the rules for overflying them specified. To be clear, these rules are created by the FAA, not the owners of these facilities. A pilot busting this or any other airspace will be answerable to the federal authorities, not the property owner.

And again, in the case of Apple Park, the flight of drones over this area is not allowed without a special exemption from the FAA to the Class C airspace for San Jose Airport, which in this location extends from the surface to 4000 feet. The current special exemption will expire in June so whether drone operations can continue in this area will depend entirely on whether it is renewed. A drone pilot who continued to fly in this airspace without permission would be answerable to the FAA, not Apple.
Rating: 4 Votes

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