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City Council Passes Bill to Study Use of Drones for Building Facade Inspections

(Photo by Goh Rhy Yan on Unsplash)

Sept. 17, 2020 By Allie Griffin

The City Council passed a bill Wednesday that will require the city to explore the use of drones for building facade inspections.

The bill, co-sponsored by Northeast Queens Council Member Paul Vallone, will require the Department of Buildings (DOB) to study the safety and feasibility of using drones to inspect building facades for damage.

Owners of buildings over six stories tall must conduct a facade inspection and make repairs every five years, under local law.

The newly-passed bill will move New York City a step closer to improving its outdated technology laws, Vallone said.

“An outdated local law, drafted decades before the advent of what are popularly known as ‘drones,’ is leaving New York City on the ground while other cities are already using rapidly advancing technologies to support business and improve safety,” Vallone said.

Drones also have the potential to improve safety, reduce costs and save time, he added.

Drone inspections would help co-op and condo boards who pay large sums for current facade inspections. The use of drones would significantly lower their expenses, he said.

However, another law would have to be changed for the study to become a reality. Drones are currently outlawed in New York City.

Vallone is working with Speaker Corey Johnson to explore legislation that would be required to move forward with legalizing drone use in New York City.

“The city must set parameters for commercial and recreational unmanned aerial vehicle usage,” said Vallone. “Further inaction would mean we are turning a blind eye on an outdated rule of law.”

Experts in the building and construction industry also want to see the legalization of drones in New York City.

“Drones offer a 21st-century solution to provide more detailed building inspections, increase public safety and reduce costs,” said Carlo Scissura, President & CEO of the construction trade group, New York Building Congress. “New technologies, like drones, are already being used effectively around the country and the world, so it is essential that New York embrace innovation and not be left behind.

The bill takes effect immediately and the study must be completed no later than Oct. 31, 2021.

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