Outdated NYC law prohibits drone flying in the city

Last week, Tech:NYC together with DJI, organized their third edition of Policy Labs ‘Drones 101’ at DJI’s offices in New York. The event brings together industry leaders and policymakers to discuss the implications of emerging technology. This time the focus was on drones and the outdated NYC law that restrict drone use in both the city of New York and the state.

Outdated NYC law prohibits drone flying

A large part of the discussion was dedicated to innovative ways governments, businesses and individuals can use drones in urban environments. Towards the end of the event members of the audience also had a chance to fly DJI drones in a safe and controlled environment.

Brendan Schulman DJI - Outdated NYC law prohibits drone flying in the city

The event was opened by Brendan Schulman, the VP of Policy and Legal Affairs at DJI, discussing an outdated NYC law that effectively prohibits drone flying within the city boundaries.

“c. Take offs and landings. It shall be unlawful for any person avigating an aircraft to take off or land, except in an emergency, at any place within the limits of the city other than places of landing designated by the department of transportation or the port of New York authority.”

This law dates back approximately 70 years and was meant to apply to the operation of large manned aircraft, not the small unmanned aircraft systems or drones that people fly nowadays.

Many professional drone pilots and industry experts, don’t think the NYC law holds up to scrutiny. It is 70 years old, it was clearly not written with drones in mind and they don’t believe it’s constitutional or enforceable. The law creates a legal grey area, where responsible operators worry that they might get in trouble even if they fly safely and follow all FAA rules. Meanwhile, there’s plenty of reason to think the outdated NYC law would not hold up to a judge’s scrutiny.

Missed economic opportunities

Speakers from M2 Aerials and Reignmaker explained how drones make difficult tasks such as building inspections safer and more efficient across a variety of industries. A large city such as New York would undoubtedly benefit from inspections-by-drone of its many aging buildings and infrastructure. In almost all cases drones can perform this kind of work faster, at lower costs and safer than people can.

The benefits drones can bring to NYC are not limited to inspections though. During the event, it was explained that:

“the film and TV industries are a key part of our local economy, with a 2015 study finding that these industries bring over $8 billion to the city’s economy and account for approximately 100,000 full-time jobs.”

However, because of the outdated NYC law that restricts the use of drones in the city, some productions were forced to capture aerial footage in other cities such as Cleveland.

Tech:NYC’s main goal

It is Tech:NYC’s main goal to:

“ensure that laws and regulations do not unnecessarily impede innovation; as technologies are created and developed, it is important for laws to be updated. Drones could undoubtedly benefit New York City and we hope policymakers will explore ways of updating existing laws to create a new framework that permits responsible drone usage.“

And this is something we from DroneDJ can get fully behind.

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Avatar for Haye Kesteloo Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Main Writer at DroneDJ, where he covers all drone related news and writes product reviews. He also contributes to the other sites in the 9to5Mac group such as; 9to5Mac, 9to5Google, 9to5Toys and Electrek. Haye can be reached at haye@dronedj.com or @hayekesteloo