Last week, in partnership with our member DJI, we held our third edition of Policy Labs—a series bringing together industry leaders and policymakers to discuss the implications of emerging technology, this event focused on drones and the regulatory realities of New York city and state. We looked at the innovative ways governments, businesses, and individuals use drones. After the discussion, attendees had the chance to test out drones in a safe, controlled environment.
Brendan Schulman, the VP of Policy and Legal Affairs at DJI, opened the event by discussing an outdated New York City law which effectively prohibits drone flying within the city:
This law dates back approximately 70 years, well before the advent of drones. It is obvious that this law was intended to apply to the operation of large, manned aircraft—not modern drones.
At the event, speakers from M2 and Reignmaker discussed how drones are already used across a wide-array of industries to accomplish once difficult tasks with greater efficiency and safety. Drones can be used to quickly and accurately inspect infrastructure—from bridges to buildings. With a large portfolio of aging infrastructure and laws mandating inspections, New York City would undoubtedly benefit from liberalized drone regulations. In fact, we heard that some city and state agencies are already making use of drones to undertake critical work.
Drones also play a major role in film and TV production—being used to capture visually stunning footage. 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, at Drones 101, we heard that several productions are being forced to capture aerial footage in other cities (even substituting Cleveland for NYC!!) due to the city’s prohibition on drones.
One of our main objectives at Tech:NYC is 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.