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Embracing a New Era: NYC's Proposed Drone Permitting Process Empowers Certified Pilots

Updated: Jun 5, 2023


The New York City (NYC) drone community is abuzz with anticipation as the city proposes a groundbreaking rule that promises to transform the landscape for certified drone pilots. This exciting development comes amidst a spirited legal battle between Xizmo, an aerial cinematography company, and NYC's ban on drone usage. With the proposed permitting process, NYC is poised to create a positive change for countless certified drone pilots working within the city, fostering a more inclusive and thriving drone industry.


Xizmo's Quest for Artistic Freedom

Xizmo, a company specializing in aerial cinematography, is challenging the validity of the regulation imposed by New York City (NYC) on the use of drones. The company believes that this regulation conflicts with the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) authority to regulate the national airspace. Despite holding valid remote pilot certifications and multiple waivers from the FAA, Xizmo has been prohibited by the city from conducting aerial cinematography using drones.


City officials argue that alternatives such as helicopters, cranes, and filming from the top of buildings are sufficient for aerial cinematography. However, Xizmo contends that these options are more expensive and less effective artistically compared to drones. It claims that drones offer a wider range of shots that cannot be easily replicated by other means.


NYC officials defend the regulation by stating that in a densely populated city like New York, with numerous skyscrapers and three airports, limiting takeoff and landing sites is necessary for the safety and security of the city.


Brooklyn District Judge Eric N. Vitaliano ruled against NYC's argument, stating that the city did not provide a clear explanation of the specific safety and security interests that are implicated when FAA-certified pilots operate drones outside the designated takeoff and landing areas in the five public parks claimed by the city. The judge also highlighted that the Avigation Law, which NYC relies on, was enacted before the creation of the FAA and does not address modern safety risks associated with drone operations. As a result, the case will proceed to discovery and a final ruling, allowing further examination of the arguments and evidence presented by both parties.





Revolutionizing NYC's Drone Landscape

Recognizing the significance of drones and the challenges they bring in a city as vibrant as NYC, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) has taken a giant leap forward. Their proposed rule for a comprehensive drone permitting process demonstrates a progressive mindset, aiming to strike a delicate balance between safety, privacy, and the ever-expanding applications of drones.



Unlocking the Potential: Key Provisions of the Proposed Rule

The proposed rule, set to become Chapter 24 in Title 38 of the Rules of the City of New York, unlocks the potential of certified drone pilots by introducing visionary provisions:


  1. Definition of Terms: The rule establishes clear definitions to ensure a shared understanding of drone operations, fostering effective communication and collaboration.

  2. Permit Requirement: NYC's embrace of drones now necessitates a permit for launching or landing unmanned aircraft, with a few exceptions. Designated areas and public aircraft operated by authorized governmental entities receive due consideration.

  3. Streamlined Application Process: The rule paves the way for a streamlined permitting process, empowering applicants to submit comprehensive information regarding their unmanned aircraft, proposed flight plans, FAA authorizations, insurance policies, data privacy, cybersecurity protocols, and any additional information requested by the Department.

  4. Transparent Approval and Disapproval Procedures: Transparency reigns supreme as the rule outlines clear procedures for reviewing and deciding on permit applications, empowering certified pilots with a fair and efficient system. In cases of disapproval, applicants are furnished with the reasons for the decision and guidance on the appeals process.

  5. Empowering Responsible Operations: Terms and conditions are established to ensure permittees and operators operate drones responsibly and safely, fostering an environment of trust and professionalism.

  6. Mitigating Liabilities: Minimum insurance requirements provide essential protection against potential liabilities arising from drone operations, enabling pilots to navigate their work with confidence.

  7. Upholding Compliance: The rule sets civil penalties for those who operate unmanned aircraft without a permit or violate permit terms and provisions outlined in Chapter 24, reinforcing a culture of accountability and adherence.


An Opportunity for Voice: Engaging the NYC Drone Community

The NYPD understands the significance of public input and actively encourages the NYC drone community to participate in shaping the final rule. By accepting written comments and organizing a public hearing, the NYPD ensures that the voices and experiences of certified drone pilots are heard and integrated into the final regulations.



A Positive Shift for Certified Drone Pilots in NYC

As the legal battle between Xizmo and NYC continues, certified drone pilots eagerly await the final ruling. However, the proposed rule by the NYPD shines a beacon of hope, marking a significant stride forward for the entire drone community within the city. With the proposed permitting process, NYC embraces the potential of drones, nurtures creativity, and prioritizes safety and privacy concerns.


The NYPD will hold a public hearing on the proposed rules on July 7, 2023, at 10:00 am in the auditorium of 1 Police Plaza.



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