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City Council pushes to use drones for facade inspections in NYC

New York City Council is pushing to use drones for facade inspections in New York City following a horrific accident last year, when a piece of facade came loose from a building and killed a pedestrian.

City Council pushes to use drones for facade inspections in NYC

‘Where people walk our streets, they have a reasonable assumption that they are safe from danger,’ City Councilmember Robert Cornegy said at a press conference before a hearing on the proposal, according to the Brooklyn Eagle. Cornegy, who represents Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights, chairs the Committee on Housing and Buildings.

Cornegy added that the law from 1948 that effectively prohibits drones from being used in New York City is “antiquated — and it’s those types of laws that we have on the books that hold us back as a city from getting the necessities, and getting the necessary advancements that we need to save lives.”

Cornegy and other city councilmembers have introduced a bill that would require the city’s Buildings Department to investigate whether drones would be more effective at keeping pedestrians safer than the current facade-inspection methods. They will also research whether unmanned aerial systems would reduce the use of sidewalk sheds and scaffolding in the city.

At the press conference for the DJI Mavic Mini, DJI spokesperson Adam Lisberg showed reporters a drone that only weighs 249 grams and could possibly be used to perform facade inspections.

Currently, there are 9,373 sidewalk sheds in place in New York City to protect pedestrians. That’s 343 miles of sheds. It’s long enough to get from Central Park to the Canadian border if you line them up, said one city council member. The oldest shed has been in place for 13 years. Drones would bring innovation to the facade inspections that currently use binoculars and telescopes to inspect buildings.

Recently, two people have died from falling building debris. Architect Erica Tishman died as she was hit by a falling piece of debris while walking on Seventh Avenue and West 49th Street. The owner of the building near Times Square had been fined last April for parts of its crumbling facade. In January, another facade-related death occurred when an aluminum-covered piece of plywood fell off a building in Main Street in Flushing and killed a pedestrian.

PrecisionHawk’s Diana Cooper said during the press conference that ‘while major cities such as L.A. and Chicago have begun to reap the benefits of this technology, New York City stands alone and has been left behind.’

Following Tishman’s death, the city’s Building Department has doubled the size of its inspection team with 12 new hires. However, it remains to be seen if the additions to the team is sufficient to inspect the 14,500 buildings that need to be inspected every five years when their exterior walls are higher than six stories.

As DroneDJ reported in December, City Councilmember Justin Brannan and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams already asked for lifting the ban on drones so that they can be used for inspections.

What do you think about using drones for facade inspections in New York City? Let us know in the comments below.

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Photos: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle



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 or @hayekesteloo