NYC Mayor Unveils New Guidelines for Drone Use in City

Adams, center, operates a drone after announcing new rules permitting their use in the city. Photo courtesy of the city of New York.

NEW YORK—Mayor Eric Adams recently announced the city is issuing new rules for a permitting process and guidelines for use of unmanned aircraft in New York City for building and infrastructure inspections, capital project planning and other uses.

“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,” Adams said before briefly operating a small drone flying near the Manhattan Bridge.

“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.”

Under the new rules, individuals and entities will be required to apply for a permit to 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 takeoff or landing site by the Department of Transportation. Applicants will also be required to comply with all federal, state and local regulations, and to have obtained authorization to operate their devices from the FAA.

The rules also implement safeguards to protect the safety and privacy of residents. Any permittee of an unmanned aircraft must notify the NYPD of any crash or accident that takes place during takeoff, operation or landing and also must notify the New York City Cyber Command of any cybersecurity incidents involving devices. If a permittee intends to capture video, photographs or audio, they will be required to notify the relevant community boards and post 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 (FDNY), often in circumstances where agency personnel can’t be safely deployed. During the recent 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.

“Drones are not new to New York City or the NYPD,” said 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.”

Shark Alert

Earlier this month, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced new shark-monitoring drones have been deployed to local beach communities on Long Island and New York City.

“New York has some of the most beautiful beaches in the country, and I’ve directed State personnel to do everything possible to keep beachgoers safe this summer,” Hochul said. “Ahead of the busy summer season, we developed new tools and strategies to monitor marine wildlife and protect the health and safety of New Yorkers. These new drones will increase the shark monitoring capacity of local governments across Long Island and New York City, ensuring local beaches are safe for all beachgoers.”

The new drones were distributed to all downstate municipalities by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, which also provides funding to cover the cost of training local personnel to operate them.