Sun Valley mogul gathering on alert for snooping drones

July 9, 2014, 5:40 PM UTC
Photograph by Dean Hutton — Bloomberg/Getty Images

Sun Valley security officers will be watching the skies this year as they look to keep attendees safe from a new threat: drones.

Technology and media moguls have unpacked their bags at the Idaho resort and are ready for the 31st annual Allen & Co. conference, the source of some of the most famous (and infamous) media and tech deals in recent years.

Security guards patrol the Sun Valley grounds and are charged with keeping the big-name attendees safe from intruders. No press or uninvited outsiders are allowed past the exclusive velvet ropes. Any information or photographs of attendees that leak past the phalanx of guards are precious commodities for news agencies around the world.

As drone technology becomes cheaper and more advanced — thanks in part to investments by some of the Sun Valley attendees’ companies — security guards are remaining vigilant to the new safety and privacy threat, Bloomberg News reports.

Last year, media outlets hailed the appearance of “paparazzi drones” after a photographer in South Africa launched a small drone near the hospital where Nelson Mandela was seeking care. Official’s detained the photographer and confiscated the small aircraft because of security regulations.

A DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ Quadcopter, which sports an high-definition video camera and 25 minutes of flight time, retails on for $1,300. That price point puts the burgeoning technology in the hands of everyday users or media outlets big and small.

Users should be aware, however, that the commercial use of drones is banned in U.S. airspace, according to regulations by the Federal Aviation Administration, although some exceptions exist for licensed pilots.

That could change pending the administration’s first drone-focused rules that are expected to come out this year. They would relax restrictions on drones that weigh less than 55 pounds, which could mean Sun Valley’s guards have an even tougher task ahead of them next year.

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