Apple has declared the airspace above its new campus a 'no-fly zone'

Cal Jeffrey

Posts: 3,667   +1,129
Staff member

Apple’s massive circular “spaceship” campus is quite a sight to see. Officially dubbed “Apple Park”, the facility will serve as Apple’s future headquarters. The structure is 2.8 million square feet housed within four stories, it sits on 175 acres of land. If you have not seen it close up, there are plenty of drone videos on YouTube showcasing the building and its construction progress, but enjoy them while you can. Flyovers might not be permitted anymore.

According to one drone pilot (video below), Apple has specifically hired security to spot drones and remove the pilots from the area. If the pilots refuse to leave, security will call the police to have them "forcibly removed." Apple has essentially declared its airspace a no-fly zone.

However, Apple Park is not listed by the FAA as a no-fly area. In fact, Apple Insider reports that it could not even find any “Controlled Airspace” filings with the FAA for Apple Park or any filed by the company. It just appears that Apple has made the declaration on its own authority, but is that even legal? Can’t drone pilots just ignore Apple security since it does not have the power to make and enforce such a restriction?

Well, the situation is a bit trickier than that. Current FAA regulations limit drone altitude to 400 feet. At four stories, a fly over of Apple Park should not be a problem. At an average floor to ceiling height of 10 feet, Apple Park should only be around 50 feet high accounting for extras. Even if its floors are a bit taller than average, there should still be room for a fly over.

There is a technicality though. Another FAA regulation states that drones must maintain a distance of 360 feet from structures. Therefore to fly over Apple Park, a drone would have to climb to a minimum altitude of approximately 400 feet, which is cutting it close to breaking regulations. If the building is taller about 50 feet, then pilots would either have to break altitude limitation or fly within the 360-foot restriction.

Even if some loophole around these FAA regs exists, Apple can still take legal action due to case law (1946, US v Causby), which established that landowners are entitled to ownership of the airspace 365 feet above their property. So essentially a drone passing over the facility is trespassing. Apple is well-known for its secrecy, but restricting public airspace seems above the norm, especially on a project where there is no reasonable concern for secrecy.

So far no legal actions from Apple or private pilots have been taken, but it will be interesting to see how it plays out. The company has so far been successful at throwing its weight around in that it has not received any push back from pilots. However, if it wants to do this the right way, it should just file for controlled airspace status on the grounds that drones cannot fly over the facility without breaking FAA rules. That way pilots will know that the airspace is restricted, and Apple will not come off as being a bully.

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psycros

Posts: 4,464   +6,656
I'd have to agree with the writer's opinion. They should just go to the FAA and save themselves some future trouble. If I ran a major company I would apply for controlled airspace for ALL my important facilities. Of course if Apple decides to get involved in drones like everyone else is, I can definitely foresee calls of hypocrisy.
 

Phr3d

Posts: 404   +87
Something about 'the only pilots interested' are already willing to listen to Apple's concerns in there somewhere..
not like you can 'sell' the vid like a classic automobile pre-production vid/pic.. mebbe I'm wrong..
 

psycros

Posts: 4,464   +6,656
Something about 'the only pilots interested' are already willing to listen to Apple's concerns in there somewhere..
not like you can 'sell' the vid like a classic automobile pre-production vid/pic.. mebbe I'm wrong..

Apple sold a book with pictures and sketches of their products for about $300. Yeah, they would try to market that.
 

Igrecman

Posts: 300   +180
Yes because Apple, the Banks and the big Corporations in general own the world. The governments are just there to give the people the illusion of democracy.
 

Uncle Al

Posts: 9,352   +8,551
Well, the 365 foot rule was recently verified by the FAA when debating nation wide rules, in fact EVERY home owner has the same right. One of the more interesting discussions was drones making deliveries where they might pass under this limit across several properties and what the owners rights are. As of last review, it remained unresolved so if your neighbor is getting really cool stuff from Amazon you might want to keep the bean-bag gun next to the front door. I wonder if the law that says anything you get in the mail that you didn't order is yours to keep could apply?? I hope they don't start drone shipping cattle ... that could be a bit of a mess!
 

mbrowne5061

Posts: 2,062   +1,281
I'd have to agree with the writer's opinion. They should just go to the FAA and save themselves some future trouble. If I ran a major company I would apply for controlled airspace for ALL my important facilities. Of course if Apple decides to get involved in drones like everyone else is, I can definitely foresee calls of hypocrisy.

Getting controlled airspace for private buildings is easier said than done. Even places like hospitals have trouble getting those privileges for their properties, and they can make some pretty serious arguments for patient privacy and safety.
 

Cal Jeffrey

Posts: 3,667   +1,129
Staff member
Regardless of whether or not they could get controlled airspace status, just patrolling the neighborhood and exerting authority that they don't have is not a good way to go about this. In this case, the pilot was across the street from the building, but what if he had been in his front yard? Whatever they do it need to go through official channels and not just Apple saying you can't do that because we said so.
 

mbrowne5061

Posts: 2,062   +1,281
Regardless of whether or not they could get controlled airspace status, just patrolling the neighborhood and exerting authority that they don't have is not a good way to go about this. In this case, the pilot was across the street from the building, but what if he had been in his front yard? Whatever they do it need to go through official channels and not just Apple saying you can't do that because we said so.
Its not where the pilot is, but where the drone is - as far as the law is concerned. Drones must maintain a certain distance from buildings, and cannot go over a certain height. These two factors make it illegal to fly over buildings greater than 4 stories in the US - and in practice, you likely can't even do that since things like HVAC units are considered part of the structure but not counted as a separate story.

The height of Apple Park makes it legally impossible for an armature to fly a drone from outside into the center of the building, but you can probably still fly one over its campuses - inside the 365' ceiling - if you got Apple's permission, but I doubt anyone would, unless Apple themselves solicited the flight.
 

RickRick

Posts: 17   +24
Don't forget - Apple has sent private security dressed as local cops or pretending to be the FBI after people and threatening arrest.
 

Roush60

Posts: 23   +13
They dont own the air above them if I want to fly there I will. But who would want to get close to apple? :)

They do up to a certain height. READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE! They quote the rules currently in place that allows them ownership/control up to 345 feet.
 
Sorry Cal, but don't let facts get in your way. First, the FAA was formed by Congress in 1958. The FAA was given exclusive authority to regulate the US airspace by congress. That would be 12 years after US v Causby. Therefore US v Causby is moot.

Let's fast forward to today. In FAA 14 CFR part 107, the FAA limits the altitude for drones to 400 feet unless your unmanned aircraft is flying within 400 feet of a structure (in which case you may not fly higher than 400 feet above the top of that structure. This would allow drone pilots to operate 400 feet of any building not in controlled airspace.

Since the writing of this article Federal Judge Young has struck down a Newton Massachusetts law to limit drone operation. (1) In his decision, Judge Young states, "Congress has given the FAA the responsibility of regulating the use of airspace for aircraft navigation and to protect individuals and property on the ground and has specifically directed the FAA to integrate drones into the national airspace."

Let's at least do some homework before you pass yourself off as any type of expert.

(1) https://www.forbes.com/sites/joIn his decision, Judge Young states, "Congress has given the FAA the responsibility of regulating the use of airspace for aircraft navigation and to protect individuals and property on the ground and has specifically directed the FAA to integrate drones into the national airspace."