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

July 21, 2023

Deputy Mayor Meera Joshi, Operations: Good morning, everyone. Beautiful morning and a beautiful view. Thank you for coming out. My name is Meera Joshi. I am the deputy mayor for Operations and I have the privilege and the honor of overseeing our infrastructure portfolio, which is huge, and it is the foundation of New York City.

So it's very exciting today to talk about drones and the promise that they bring to making our infrastructure even more sound and even more secure, beyond the entertainment potential of them as well for everyday New Yorkers. So I know we had a conference in May. This is an amazing follow up to that conference and I'd like to introduce our mayor, Eric Adams, who's around town and also likes to have his eyes everywhere, and this technology is only going to make that expand. Thank you.

Mayor Eric Adams: Thank you. Thank you so much, deputy mayor. And many people didn't even realize, because you enjoyed it so much, the drone show on the 4th of July, and I want to thank my chief counsel, Brendan McGuire and his team for really partnering with the Police Department and Macy's so we could put on a great presentation. That was just the beginning. And also, his team spearheading the summit we held in Flushing, that the deputy mayor just mentioned. It was so important. It was an eye-opener. That we realized that the technology was available and that there were loose ends in utilizing the technology.

The School Construction Authority, the Department of Buildings, New York City Police Department, Fire Department, all of these entities were trying to figure out how to get it right, and there was just no clear direction. And what we decided to do in our continuation of dismantling those walls that are preventing us from having the proper execution of technology to make our city a more efficient and safe at the same time. And so, I really want to thank the deputy mayor and her team who's here. Many of our team members from different agencies that are going to be part of this important initiative.

New York City, we're flying into the future and we're going to see that in our presentation today, using drones to make city service faster and safer, and likely saving taxpayers' dollars in the process. There's been a lot of buzz, so let me be clear, drones are proven technology, and they're being used every day. And the City of New York cannot lead from the rear, we must lead from the front. And that is what the May summit was about. We came away with some real information.

But even if we go back to April, in April, we saw the garage collapse. And we were able to use drones to go inside, really defining the condition to make it easier for our firefighters, our first responders, and to identify that we had an injured person that was on the scene. It was a combination of drones and the robotic dog that went in, in an unsafe environment, so that we did not have to put the men and women of the FDNY and first respondents in harm's way.
But the true potential is not just what we are seeing every day, but it's how we're taking on… I want to make sure that's not the president.

Deputy Mayor Joshi: Is that the president?

Mayor Adams: I can't tell you everything, you know that. But the potential is here and it's just taken off. We want to build out a pipeline for our young people to be able to learn this technology, to be able to be the pilots, to be able to just really take the real careers, and it's just taking flight now. We're paving the way for the future use of drones here in our everyday lives, not just in emergency situations.

Drones are allowing us to make infrastructure inspections faster and safer. We saw how utilizing infrared technology can look at loose bricks, structural problems, loose screws. The potential is just endless. They will help us keep our bridges, tunnels, building and critical infrastructure in tiptop shape and condition.

And soon, they will help us monitor our beaches for unauthorized swimmers and hazardous conditions. 

We're going to be rolling out initiatives in this area, partnering with our state. Even with part of our sharp detection in our waterways, the ability to drop life rafts from drones if we are dealing with a dangerous environment where someone is in the potential to drown, this technology is real and it's lifesaving. All while potentially lowering costs and increasing the safety of workers and contractors.

These rules that we are announcing today will allow city agencies and other entities to harness the potential of drone technology while ensuring that drones use doesn't spend out of control. Look at that, right on time. Fly over me. Oh, you can't fly over me.

No, I'm good.

And they would need to follow rules designed to protect New Yorkers' safety, privacy and quality of life. We are very conscious of the safety aspect and the privacy aspect, because we need to use technology, I say over and over again, and not abuse it.
In May, we learned a lot from the drone farm in Flushing. We're going to continue to build and expand on that, and we want to encourage those drone businesses who stated it was difficult to do business in New York, well, come back to the city, open your operations, learn how we want to build out the pipeline and talent for you. The opportunities are here in this city.

Today, we're taking the next step, announcing the city agencies are piloting the use of drones so that we can improve city services for all New Yorkers. This is all about government being more efficient in removing the bureaucratic boulders that blocks progress.

New York City's a 21st century city, and we must use 21st century services. And so, I want to thank the NYPD and FDNY, many of our other agencies for being partners in trying this technology and moving it forward. And I want to recognize all of our city agencies that are here; DOB; DOT; as well as the EPA, Environmental Protection; and the amazing commissioner of parks, Sue Donoghue. We're going to figure out a way, Sue, to use in the parks as well.

We are showing that the sky is the limit when it comes to making city services faster, safer and more affordable. This is a moment where this city is taking off. No longer running our city from the ground, we're going to running from the ground and in the skies, and drones are going to lead the way in doing so.

So again, thank you deputy mayor. Let's make it happen.

Deputy Mayor Joshi: Thank you, mayor. And just like GPS allowed us to look around corners and now we take things like Waze as customary, drones will allow us to have eyes in the sky. And that broader vision will allow us both to be a better city and to be a better city to do business in and to have fun in.

And I want to thank NYPD, who did an incredible job codifying easy to understand rules that will allow everyone to participate in the use of drones without excessive burdens on that ability to use drones in this city. So I want to welcome our Commissioner Caban.

Police Commissioner Edward Caban: Good afternoon everyone. Thank you Mr. Mayor and Deputy Mayor Joshi and all of our partners here today.
Drones are not new in New York City. This amazing technology has been growing and evolving for years. More and more drones have been used in first respond, to rescue efforts, to aid in research projects, conduct inspections and surveys, and film cinematic videos. It is clear the city must balance the ever present safety and security concerns related to drone use against the gains that may result from this technology.

And so, today we are doing our part to ensure that more people, more projects, and more use of this technology will be available here in our city. That those opportunities will be carried both lawfully and safely. So today, the NYPD is launching a new website, This will, for the first time, issue take off and landing permits across the five boroughs.
It should be noted the governing rules around drones, as determined by the Federal Aviation Administration, remain in place. They include proper registration of a drone, licensing around the operation of a drone, and permissions to operate in certain restricted airspace, among others.

The permits announced today will be issued by New York City, and when approved will grant its holder the ability to takeoff and land drones in specified locations. Keeping in mind this is a new idea and a new process, we are going to be deliberate in our approach. Taking off and landing applications will have to be submitted in advance of the desired date of flight, which will allow the NYPD and our partners, including the Department of Transportation, to be thorough in their efforts to not only provide access, but also to balance that access with our mandate, to preserve public safety and security.

Prior to the creation of this process, if someone launched a drone within city limits, there were always, always in violation of the law. Now, we are creating a balance between legal access and safety for all.

I want to thank the mayor, our strong partners in city, state and federal government for the hard work in getting this off the ground. Thank you very much.

Deputy Mayor Joshi: Thank you, commissioner. I want to just take one moment to quickly outline some of the ways our city agencies are using drones.

As you know, we're a big city. We have big infrastructure. It is critical to keep it safe and secure. We need eyes all over. So DOT is using drones, piloting the use of drones for our iconic bridges. And they've already started with High Bridge. The drones provide detailed photographs. They get to hard to reach places and they allow for continuity and uniformity and frequency that is unachievable with just using our inspectors. So it will absolutely augment the work of our inspectors in ways that will make their jobs safer and more efficient.

Our Department of Environmental Protection is going to use drones, which they're already using to examine our outfalls, that is where water is discharged into larger bodies of water, to ensure that they are safe and secure, but they're going to use it for our wastewater treatment plants and for our dam inspections.

And DDC is using drones for facade inspections. They're using them currently for the wall that's being built along this side of the East Side. And they're going to do something which I think is important as a city, we have large market power, ensure that our design contracts incorporate the use of drones, so that construction is 360 degrees faster and something everyone can see as it progresses.

Our Parks Department is likewise going to use drones for continuing to monitor our shorelines, as well as monitoring our tree canopy, understanding what we're covering over the city as heat becomes more and more of an issue is something that can only be done from an aerial perspective.

And our Department of Buildings is going to be using drones for facade inspections, and especially for those very dangerous places where only a drone can get the insight. The Anne Street garage collapse was sadly a perfect example. A human could not inspect the roof of that garage, but a drone needed to. And there are sadly many conditions in this city where a drone inspection is the only way we're going to be able to see the critical, dangerous fault lines that need rapid repair.

So with that, I'd also like to turn it over to Julian Kline from Tech:NYC, because nothing we do in this city is by government alone. It's always with our private partners and with the tech and industry especially on this subject.

Julian Kline, Head of Public Policy, Tech:NYC: Thank you. Thank you so much, deputy mayor.

Good morning. I'm Julian Klein, head of policy at Tech:NYC. Tech:NYC represents the technology and startup community in New York, which includes a number of startup companies developing some of the country's leading in drone, aerial and imaging technologies.

This is an exciting day to see the mayor's quick action on commercial drone usage. These rules open up new opportunities for innovative drone manufacturers to come in and fly in the city under a framework that makes the safety and privacy of New Yorkers a top priority. These rules will help to grow the drone industry in New York and businesses across many other sectors will be able to benefit as well.

Earlier this year, Tech:NYC and the mayor convened a summit in partnership to showcase all the ways drones can benefit our city, and those benefits are endless. Drones are already deployed today to inspect buildings and bridges for safety standards, to respond to fires and other emergencies, and to monitor the impacts of climate change. These are just a few examples and there are many more uses which we are excited to see in the future.

To take full advantage of this technology, we need a clear and standardized process for drone use in construction, film and entertainment, and the countless other industries that call New York City home. The new permit process established by the city will do just that. And as a result, we hope even more businesses will explore drone usage to improve their services. And when drone manufacturers are looking for a new home base, they will be happy to call New York City their new home.

Thank you, Mayor Adams, and we look forward to working with your administration and our partners across the city as these rules are rolled out.

Mayor Adams: Thank you.

Deputy Mayor Joshi: Thank you. Now, we get to the fun part, right? The demonstration.
[Drone demonstration.]

Mayor Adams: We're going to do a few on topics. On.

Question: What will the commercial use permitting process look like? Will you only be giving out a certain number of permits to start off with?

Deputy Commissioner Bob Barrows, Strategic Initiatives, Police Department: Good afternoon. I'm Bob Barrows. I'm the deputy commissioner of Strategic Initiatives at NYPD. So how the permitting process looks, there's a website as the commissioner announced, People interested in obtaining a takeoff or landing permit can log in, create an account. They can apply for a drone, excuse me, a takeoff or landing permit. There's a number of documents that need to be uploaded in order to obtain it, as well as some information as well. That information is then reviewed by the NYPD, and then also in conjunction with DOT. Then permits are either approved or denied. If the permit is approved, it can be downloaded right off of the website, the portal. If it's disapproved, there's an appeals process and that appeals process can take place on the website as well.

Question: Was there a number of permits that were going to be…

Deputy Commissioner Barrows: So we're going to carefully review these as they come in and make decisions based off of the circumstances and the structure of their review.

Question: This is on topic. Don't interrupt me, please. The instances of car chases within the NYPD for the last six months has been more than the last five years combined, and they're often deadly and it's very dangerous. Do you think something like using drones to replace car chases could replace what has been a deadly and dangerous police chases from the NYPD, where other municipalities have stopped doing them, because they're so dangerous?

Mayor Adams: The drones and all other technologies, we have introduced a number of different pieces of technology to go after those bad guys that arrogantly believe they can commit a dangerous crime and get away when doing it and do it over and over again. We've done everything from we've allowed our teams to go to extended training on how to carry out their roles, but this is part of it. Using these drones, you're going to see several evolutions of how we can use the drones and identify those who are attempting to just make our city a dangerous place. It's all about the tools. Safety, safety, safety.

Question: Mr. Mayor, how will news organizations be able to use drones and will be able to? Then I have another question. I know it's not topic, but when can we ask you about this about situation at Ebbets Field?

Mayor Adams: The situation on what?

Question: Ebbets Field.

Mayor Adams: Something happened to Ebbets Field? I'm not aware of it.

Question: You're not aware of it?

Mayor Adams: No. No, I wasn't brief yet on it, but I will get briefed on it.

Question: No…

Mayor Adams: Oh, you said my… Okay. I thought you said something happened tonight. The training is important. All of our agencies will be involved. Those who want to use the permit for entertainment, I'm going to use the drones for entertainment and other aspects of it, that's the process, the permitting process that we talked about. By having a website, you can see that we are utilizing the permission process in the correct way, and that's the goal.

The goal is transparency, allowing people to take away the uncertainty. No one knew how to use or apply for use of a drone in the city. We're removing that. We're going to have one direction, one way where people can see where their application is and if there's disapproved that they can go through the appropriate approval process.

Question: Mr. Mayor, for the permitting process, is it like a one time use or do you have to reapply every time you want to get a permit? Is there a longer term process?

Deputy Commissioner Barrows: So when you apply for a permit, you're allowed to apply for up to five locations with five separate dates and time on one application.

Question: So yeah, are you imagining if I wanted to just take up a drone in the park for fun, or is this more for commercial video shoots and cleaning up facades?

Deputy Commissioner Barrows: So the rules apply to individuals that have what's called a Part 107 license. You traditionally see those licenses issued to entities or individuals who are seeking to use a drone for a business related purpose. It is different from a recreational or hobbyist license. I will point out that there are five city parks within the city that allow for recreational and hobby drone flights, and you do not need a permit to perform those flights.


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