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Mayor Adams Unveils new Guidelines to Allow Responsible Drone Usage in New York City

July 21, 2023

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New Rules Create Permitting Process for Use of Drones with Safeguards to Protect New Yorkers' Safety and Privacy

Paves Way for City Agencies to Deploy Technology for Municipal Services, Ensuring It Can Be Done Faster and More Cost-Effectively

New York – New York City Mayor Eric Adams today announced that the city is issuing new rules setting forth a permitting process and guidelines for the take-off and landing of unmanned aircraft in New York City. The rules including building inspections, infrastructure inspections, and capital project planning. Additionally, the rules ensure the proper safeguards are in place to protect the safety and privacy of all New Yorkers.

"Today, New York City is flying into the future, using drones to make city services faster and safer, and likely saving taxpayer dollars as well," said Mayor Adams. "Drones are already saving lives, such as in the tragic garage collapse in Lower Manhattan, but their true potential is just taking off. With these rules, we are paving the way for drones to help in New Yorkers' everyday lives – not just in emergency situations. Drones are going to allow us to make façade inspections faster and safer, help us inspect and maintain our bridges, tunnels, and critical infrastructure, and allow us to monitor our beaches more easily for unauthorized swimmers and hazardous conditions, among other things. This is how we ‘Get Stuff Done' for New Yorkers."

"To keep our infrastructure strong and sound our operational agencies are getting eyes in the sky," said Deputy Mayor Meera Joshi. "360 degrees views, going where humans can't, drones will vastly increase the effectiveness and quality of our critical infrastructure inspections and ultimately the safety of New York City."

"Today marks the beginning of a new chapter for the city," said Chief Counsel to City Hall and the Mayor Brendan McGuire. "Drones are the future, and this administration continues to embrace technology to serve New Yorkers in new, more efficient and more cost-effective ways."

"Drones are not new to New York City or the NYPD," said New York City Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Edward A. Caban. "This amazing technology has been growing and evolving for years. Today, we are doing our part to ensure New Yorkers can access this technology safely and lawfully. I want to think the mayor, and our city, state, and federal partners for their hard work in getting this off the ground."

"The New York City Department of Transportation is excited about the opportunity to further innovate our work by adopting drone usage to conduct bridge inspections and highlight our transformative street projects," said New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez. "We thank Mayor Adams and our sister agencies for their partnership in advancing these important reforms."

"While our parks and greenspaces already uplift New Yorkers, we're excited to see this new program take flight," said New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks) Commissioner Sue Donoghue. "Drones have the potential to help us both keep New Yorkers safe with a birds-eye-view of our beaches to monitor for sharks, and plan for the future of greenspaces with an expanded aerial view during our design and construction process. We look forward to working with NYPD to implement this new policy and will continue to coordinate with them on matters of safety in our parks and beaches."

"Across the world, aerial drones are already being effectively utilized by design professionals, who leverage these tools to supplement the critical surveying work they perform on construction and building maintenance projects. With these new rules, the Adams administration is opening the door for design professionals in New York City to potentially use these same tools to supplement the important up close safety inspections they perform," said New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) Commissioner Jimmy Oddo. "DOB believes that drones will play an important role in New York City's development and construction industries going forward. Just this past month, a group of DOB inspectors, members of Allied Building Inspectors IUOE Local 211, traveled to Texas for a comprehensive drone training, giving the department a team of qualified and soon-to-be licensed drone pilots."

Under the new rules, individuals and entities will be required to apply for a permit to legally take-off or land a drone or any other kind of unmanned aircraft in New York City. The permitting process will be administered by the NYPD. The permits will include a site temporarily designated as a take-off or landing site by the DOT. Applicants will also be required to comply with all applicable federal, state, and local regulations, and to have obtained authorization to operate their devices from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Further, the rules implement appropriate safeguards to protect the safety and privacy of New Yorkers. Any permittee of an unmanned aircraft must notify the NYPD of any crash or accident that takes place during takeoff, operation, or landing. They also must notify the New York City Cyber Command of any cybersecurity incidents involving devices. Further, if a permittee intends to capture video, photo, or audio, they will be required to notify the relevant community boards, and public notices within 100 feet of the take-off and landing sites in advance.

Drones are already used for several emergency services by the NYPD and the Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY), often in circumstances where agency personnel cannot be safely deployed. During the recent tragic garage collapse in Lower Manhattan, for example, the FDNY used drones to assess the interior conditions and conduct searches for survivors without putting firefighters' lives at risk.

"Reaping the full benefits of emerging tech requires striking a regulatory balance that ensures safety without stifling innovation – and these rules will do just that," said Julie Samuels, president and executive director, Tech:NYC. "When we convened a summit on drone technologies with Mayor Adams earlier this year, the potential benefits were immediately apparent: Safe drone usage could make a real difference for our city, from inspecting bridges and buildings and monitoring the impacts of climate change, to the exciting use cases still to come, like delivering essential goods to New Yorkers without contributing to street congestion. We look forward to working with the Adams administration to chart a smart path forward that will help this industry grow and contribute to New York's long-term success."

"From patrolling the City's 2,000 square mile upstate watershed, to conducting routine infrastructure inspections along the coastline of the five boroughs, drones operated by our skilled workforce are already helping us serve New Yorkers more safely and efficiently," said DEP Commissioner Rohit T. Aggarwala. "We also foresee how the potential use of drones in emergency situations can help keep our workers safe, such as inspecting for the presence of asbestos during a building collapse or for investigating the root cause of a roadway sinkhole."

"Mayor Adams has his finger on the pulse of technology, understanding exactly how to make tech work for us. City agencies will now use drones to engage in safety inspections and capital project planning — a fast, efficient, and cost-effective use of resources," said New York State Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar. "Importantly, the rules the Mayor is publishing in the City Record will ensure drones are used responsibly, protecting our safety and respecting our privacy. This is only the start of applications for drones by City agencies. Drones can also be used for emergency responses, weather monitoring, land management, police work, firefighting, and traffic management. I will partner with Mayor Adams at the State level to provide whatever we need to put New York City at the forefront of tech-powered government."

"Mayor Adams' has new guidelines to allow city agencies to utilize drones for non-emergent matters, while protecting New Yorkers' safety and privacy," said New York State Assemblymember Alicia Hyndman. "City agencies will have access to drones for services such as building and infrastructure inspections. This will pave the way for new technology to be adapted and to streamline processes throughout the city."

"Drone technology continues to improve, and usage continues to increase. If drones can be used effectively and wisely to enhance public safety as well as public services, then we should use them wisely," said Staten Island Borough President Vito Fossella. "I commend Mayor Adams for developing protocols to allow for safe drone use for the public good. Hopefully, these proposed rules will create an environment for safe drone use while maximizing the public benefit of using them for select purposes. We will continue to support any efforts to improve efficiency and minimize delays when dealing with city agencies."

"I am grateful to Mayor Adams for taking the initiative in addressing the safety and privacy concerns over illegal drone usage throughout the city," said New York City Councilmember Rafael Salamanca. "With these new rules in place, we can utilize this technology to better serve New Yorkers, while ensuring that their rights to privacy are maintained."

"Nobody wants to have a drone hovering over their yards or near their windows, recording them without permission," said New York City Councilmember Joann Ariola. "These new regulations will make sure that the privacy of New Yorkers can continue to be respected as we enter into a new era, and will also make sure that our city services are able to utilize the most cutting edge drone technology available. These guidelines represent a bold step forward for the future of our municipal services, and I applaud the mayor and his team for making this happen"

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