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New York City Inches Toward Drones for Building Inspections.

The New York City Department of Buildings is inching closer to authorizing drones for building inspections, according to a city government press release from Nov. 24.

A new report from the department shows the wide range of uses that drones have in various industries, including construction, and outlines the legal landscape for drone use in the city. For example, the report found that drones could potentially be used to inspect building facades for the city's Façade Inspection & Safety Program (FISP).

Currently, inspections are performed using binoculars and cameras from the street or from nearby roofs. Drones, according to the report, would be able to get better vantage points for photographs, and inspectors could stitch them together to create a more detailed picture of the facade.

Drones in construction

While the city is inviting more studies on the topic, according to the release, allowing drone use would invite legal complications. Currently, the city only permits drones in specific emergency situations, according to the report. In order for the drones to be used in a wider variety of scenarios, such as for facade inspections, the city's laws would need to be amended.

Specifically, the New York City Administrative Code Section 10-126(c) states that "It shall be unlawful for any person navigating an aircraft to take off or land, except in an emergency, at any place within the limits of the city other than places of landing designated by the department of transportation or the port of New York authority." The report points out that this section of code was developed in 1948 and accounts for other forms of aircraft, though drones are now included in this regulation.

Many of New York City's officials are optimistic about the use of drones for inspections, the release said. The report cites several sectors that could benefit from them, including mining, construction, and emergency response.

"The use of drones to inspect buildings could yield more detailed results and greater safety, as well as greater efficiency and documentation. It's well worth pursuing," said New York City Council member Robert Holden in the release.

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