You Can Fly a Drone in NYC Now—Here’s How It Works

BY Zacc Dukowitz
6 September 2023

After years of a complete ban on drone operations, New York City is finally allowing drone pilots to fly within the city with a permit. The new process isn’t easy, but it’s a big step forward.

The change in rules has been led by the New York City Police Department (NYPD), which was spurred to open up the skies following a lawsuit with Xizmo Media (more on that below).

UAV Coach is a proud partner of the NYPD, helping its officers become FAA-certified drone pilots through our training program over at Drone Pilot Ground School. It’s been so great to see the rules opening up in NYC!

How to Get Permission to Fly a Drone in NYC

Here’s the process for getting a drone permit in NYC, including things you’ll need to have in order to submit a successful request.

Important links

1. Create an Account

First, you’ll want to create an account on the  NYPD’s portal.

If you already have an account, you can login here. If you need to make one, you can do that here.

2. Apply for a Permit

After you create your account, you can login and apply for a permit to fly a drone.

Permit requests are reviewed by the NYPD, in partnership with the Department of Transportation (DOT), and either approved or disapproved. A permit is required in order to takeoff or land any FAA-registered, FAA-compliant drone lawfully within NYC.

Here’s what you’ll submit in your permit application:

  • Information about the purpose of your proposed drone operations.
  • Information about the type of drone you will be using.
  • The location of your proposed flight.

As part of the application process, you’ll also be required to pay a $150 application fee.

3. Get Your Permit

Upon application approval, you’ll receive a permit to legally takeoff or land a drone in New York City.

Permits include a site temporarily designated as a takeoff or landing site by the DOT.

An aerial shot of NYC taken from a crewed aircraft | Image source

Required Documents and Considerations

The process for applying may seem simple, but there are several things you need to have in place for your application to be approved.

Here’s the full list:

  • A government-issued photo ID for applicant and any
    proposed operator.
  • An FAA pilot certification with small unmanned aircraft
    system rating.
  • An FAA UAS registration certificate.
  • Applicable FAA Waivers & other authorizations.
  • Proof of Commercial General Liability and drone
    insurance policies.
  • Details regarding the applicant’s data privacy and
    cybersecurity practices policy.
  • Additional documents may be required; refer to the
    rule for more information.

There are also these requirements for notifications:

  • Any permittee of an unmanned aircraft must notify the NYPD of any crash or accident that takes place during takeoff, operation, or landing.
  • Applicants must notify the New York City Cyber Command of any cybersecurity incidents involving devices.
  • Applicants may also need to obtain additional permits through other New York City agencies (e.g. Department of Parks and Recreation, Office of Media and Entertainment).
  • If a permittee intends to capture video, photo, or audio, they will be required to notify the relevant community boards, and public notices within 100 feet of the take-off and landing sites in advance.

A Little Complex, But a Huge Step Forward

Although the permit application is straightforward, there are several details that could make this process pretty complicated.

Here are the big ones:

  • The insurance requirement. Drone insurance isn’t required in the U.S. (though it’s a good idea). This requirement adds an extra layer of security for drone operations in NYC, but it also adds an additional layer of cost and complexity for those seeking an NYC permit.
  • The cybersecurity policy requirement. While drone insurance may be fairly mainstream, it’s less common that a professional drone pilot will have a “cybersecurity practices policy” already written up. A policy like this makes sense for larger organizations but may be overkill for small ones. Here’s a list of drone cybersecurity best practices from the U.S. Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency that you could repurpose to create your policy.
  • The notification and additional permit requirements. If you plan to capture “video, photo, or audio” while flying in NYC you’ll have to notify “relevant community boards”—this little item could end up being the most complicated, and the most time-consuming. Tracking down all the relevant community boards and figuring out how to notify them could prove almost impossible, depending on where you want to fly. And, of course, almost anyone who wants to fly in New York City will want to do so, because why fly if not to capture video and audio? Add to this the possibility of needing to obtain additional permits depending on where you want to fly and what you want to do, and there is a lot more potential complexity to navigate here.

How One Drone Media Company Led the Push for Change in NYC

New York City’s long-standing drone ban may have gone on for years longer if not for a legal challenge brought by Xizmo Media, an aerial cinematography firm rooted in Brooklyn.

Xizmo Media has always provided safe and effective drone operations for clients who want amazing aerial imagery, and we’re thrilled that our two-year legal quest has resulted in our unique agreement with New York City recognizing that we have the right to fly drones for our clients.

– Edward Kostakis, CEO of Xizmo Media

The NYC drone ban was based on an old avigation law from 1948 that made it “. . . unlawful for any person avigating 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.”

Credit: Xizmo Media

Xizmo Media challenged this old ban, arguing that New York City didn’t possess the authority to enforce an all-encompassing ban.

And, after years of litigation, the company recently reached a settlement with the city, winning the unique right to fly drones within city limits. Right now, it’s the only company allowed to fly in the city.

Xizmo Media has earned our reputation for safe operation and astounding imagery over twelve years of hard work, and we’re pleased that our thousands of hours of experience over New York’s skies have helped show we’re worthy of this distinction.

– Pablo Barrera, Kostakis’s co-founder

The case brought by Xizmo Media served as a nudge to NYC leadership, contributing to the creation of the new permit system that was just launched by the NYPD.

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