The Real Estate Board of New York to The New York City Police Department on Draft Rules Relating to Drones

Ryan Monell

Vice President of Government Affairs

July 9, 2023

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The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) is the City’s leading real estate trade association representing commercial, residential, and institutional property owners, builders, managers, investors, brokers, salespeople, and other organizations and individuals active in New York City real estate. Thank you to the New York City Police Department (NYPD) for the opportunity to comment on a proposed rule that would create a procedure by which members of the public may submit applications to launch or land an unmanned aircraft, including a “drone,” within New York City.

REBNY strongly supports the NYPD’s effort to legalize and effectively regulate the ability for drones to be utilized in New York City and believes that drones have the potential to have a major positive impact on New York. Relative to their practical benefit to real estate ownership and building maintenance, as one example, drones could improve the façade inspections required by Local Law 11. Although they would not replace current inspections, they could work in tandem, allowing for additional inspections without the use of cumbersome scaffolding and sidewalk sheds. They could also be useful in photographing buildings for advertisements, could assist in public safety efforts, and help in various research projects and surveys.

While there are positive benefits to this technology, there are also complex challenges that will arise as drone usage continues to become more prevalent. REBNY shares concerns that drones do have the potential to negatively impact privacy issues, relative to both their surveillance capabilities and through their ability to collect and retain data. They can also create security issues, either from being directly weaponized, or by causing accidents that could impact safety and property. As a result, REBNY encourages and supports the NYPD’s diligence in ensuring any rules promulgated surrounding drone usage account for the safety and privacy of all New Yorkers.

Relative to the rule being proposed currently, REBNY would like to raise several specific recommendations:

  1. The application timeline should be shortened and streamlined. Applications should be required no more than 10 days in advance of the first flight, and not 30 days as proposed, so that information supplied will be the most accurate possible. In addition, in lieu of requiring the company operating a drone to disseminate an application across multiple parties or entities, such as the community board and/or City Council, these requirements should be the responsibility of the NYPD.

  2. The NYPD should also improve the post-flight reporting requirements to make it easier for the public to find out about flight details without putting all the onus on the company operating the drones. Instead, the agency should be required to retain registrations and provide requested flight information to those who request it.

  3. The rules should not conflict with FAA policies concerning drones and should be in line with what other large cities have successfully done, including Los Angeles, Chicago, and Boston. This will ensure that there are not confusing redundancies

REBNY and the real estate industry stand ready to help the NYPD work through these issues moving forward. Thank you for the consideration of these points.