So why don't we pick drops anymore? Economics. With the rise in hourly wages over the years it is not cost effective to pay an employee to pick drops. Just imagine being bent over for hours picking apples off of the ground. Oh, my aching back.
But couldn't we use them for cider? In the late 90's a NY orchardist made cider from drops that came from a field where his cows roamed. He did not do a good job sanitizing/washing the apples and people got sick. At least one person died. So USDA required pasteurization of cider using heat or UV (ultraviolet). An owner of a cider press can make unpasteurized cider for sale at their farm. This incident stopped us from using drops in cider. (Drops can be used for cider but there are stringent rules governing their use.)
Our hand picked apples are graded and we sell them as utility apples, ones that did not make the grade. These have taken the place of drops and we also use them in cider.
We do allow people to pick drops towards the end of the season when we say it is okay for them to do so. Every year someone will pick drops, without asking first, and are shocked when we charge them full price! They usually leave the apples and take off "You let us pick drops last year". Yes we did, at the end of the season. We wait until the end of the season to let people pick drops because a few have picked apples off the trees and then filled the other half of the bag with drops. We learned this from experience.
At the end of the season people with animals will pick drops but most of the dropped apples go back into the soil or are eaten by wild animals. Although our new fence will keep out the larger animals.