Security personnel charged with keeping reporters away from the billionaires descending upon Sun Valley, Idaho, are now on the lookout for another threat: drones.
Event staff are watching the skies for unmanned aerial vehicles that could photograph, harass or harm attendees at the annual gathering of business executives, according to two people familiar with the plans who asked not to be named. While scouts have monitored for remote-controlled drones at previous Allen & Co. events, they’re more prevalent this year as the flying gizmos become increasingly commonplace, said one of the people, a security official who sought anonymity because the measures are private.
Sun Valley draws some of the biggest names in technology and media, and this year’s guest list includes Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Google’s Eric Schmidt, all of whose companies have been investing in drone technology. So far, Twitter’s Dick Costolo, LinkedIn’s Jeff Weiner, AOL’s Tim Armstrong and venture capitalist Reid Hoffman have all been spotted.
Reporters and photographers are here behind the velvet ropes trying to get a glimpse of the billionaires and engage them in conversation. It’s the security company’s job to prevent the press or other event crashers from getting in by land or air.
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Photographs of moguls are valuable and in high demand from news agencies. As tempting as it may be to send a camera- equipped mini-copter into the event, commercial use of drones is prohibited in the U.S., according to Les Dorr, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration.
“You cannot operate any aircraft in a way that endangers the safety of people and property on the ground,” Dorr said. “If you’re buzzing over people, we could take enforcement action.”
“Sun Valley police aren’t focused on drone prevention, Assistant Police Chief Michael Crawford said by phone. If a property owner complains about a drone, he said police would ‘‘go and try to talk to the person who was operating it.’’