Brooklyn-based startup Aerobo made history last August when it sent a 34-pound drone outfitted with a digital video camera 75 feet above the company’s Industry City headquarters. The 10-minute flight marked the first legal commercial drone operation in New York City.
Despite the huge demand for footage that only drones and their cameras can provide—for film and TV, real estate marketing and other uses—commercial drone flights are almost impossible to conduct legally in New York because of strict rules against flying in dense urban areas and near airports.
Citing FAA regulations and public-safety concerns, the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, which oversees film shoots on public property, has ruled out issuing permits for drones.
By contrast, the agency’s counterpart in Los Angeles, FilmL.A., has given out 111 permits for UAV-filming since the FAA regularly began allowing commercial operations in late-2014.
Right now, City Council members are choosing between waiting for the FAA to issue its rules and pushing ahead on their own. There is some question about the kinds of rules the city will be able to enforce, however, since the FAA has made clear that flight regulations fall under its jurisdiction.
One drone operator [who apparently chose to remain anonymous] acknowleged that he’s violating FAA regulations. But he likened his business to that of marijuana growers in California and said he was simply getting a head start.
“This whole thing is based on the idea that within a short amount of time it will be a completely legitimate business. We want to be ready for when that time comes.”
This is a long, well-researched article in which the author makes an eloquent case for what is clearly a very real opportunity. With so much money on the table, there are those who abide by the law and make thier living working out of town as Aerobo does, and those who don’t.
Perhaps the most interesting part to me was the discussion about how architects are using drone footage. “There’s a whole New York landscape in the sky that’s its own form of real estate,” said David Williams, an architect turned owner of Williams New York, a branding and marketing firm with an absolutely stealth web presence.
The article also considers the impact of the $1.9M fine levied on Skypan which included multiple violations in New York Class B airspace. It is hard to imagine a more complex environment to work in with three Class B airports blanketing most of the area (great map from the article.)