We’re in the drone zone.
The nation is flipping out over the future of unmanned aerial vehicles — but they’ve already taken off in New York.
The aerial robots have soared across the public library, MTV broadcasts and the Electric Zoo Festival. Halstead flies them for real-estate shots, startups are making drone “pets” and scores of hobbyists are sending them into city skies.
“Drones aren’t only for military use,” said David Quinones, head of New York firm SkyCamUsa. “They’re going to be used for so many things that are friendly and helpful. It’s really up to us.”
Politicians and privacy watchdogs have been in a furor since Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos revealed his futuristic vision of delivering packages using drones.
Last week, a tiny Colorado town mulled a proposal that would allow residents to hunt down the flying robots with shotguns in the name of privacy. Officials decided not to vote on it.
Because the devices are becoming more accessible — as low as $300 online — some reckless fliers have run into trouble.
Cops arrested a Brooklyn man in October after his drone nearly clobbered a businessman near Grand Central Terminal. In March, an unmanned craft hovered near a jet landing at JFK, prompting a federal investigation.
Amie Stepanovich of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, DC, said rules on individual drones should be put into place immediately as more enter the nation’s airspace. Her group is pushing for states to revisit their “Peeping Tom” laws.
“You have to understand, drones are designed around collecting information,” Stepanovich told The Post. “In New York, a lot of people feel safe because they live above ground level. They don’t believe people are going to be looking into their apartments, but drones make it that much easier.”
Right now, the Federal Aviation Administration doesn’t have clear-cut rules on drones, so users follow laws for remote-controlled aircraft. The FAA plans to introduce new rules in 2015.
Still, local shutterbugs and real-estate companies have been guiding the hovercrafts for years.
Halstead started using a drone in 2010 to capture footage for high-end listings in Connecticut, the Hudson Valley, the Hamptons and Park Slope, while big-name developers including Extell have used them to snap aerial images of future construction sites.
In 2011, journalist Tim Pool used a $299 drone he called the “Occucopter” to stream footage of Occupy Wall Street.
In August, MTV Music Group used its own drone to film the crowd during its concert series at the Music Hall of Williamsburg.
Even at the New York Public Library, a staffer flew a drone inside the main branch last month and posted an online video of it buzzing above the bookshelves.
Sameer Parekh, CEO of the robotics firm Falkor Systems, flies his “pet” drone in Prospect Park on weekdays. The device trails the user as though it were a little dog — utilizing sensors to track a logo on the person’s T-shirt.
More than 400 people belong to the New York City Drone User Group on Meetup.com, which aims to promote responsible flight, community service and innovation.
“The naysayers just aren’t seeing the possibilities. Those are the people who are stocking up on canned goods and ammo,” said New Jersey photographer Steve Cohen, a founder of NYCDUG. “It’s really important to tell the public how much good comes out of this technology.”
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