City Council holds hearings on drones

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At a New York City Council hearing, one of the world's top drone lawyers -- now a vice-president for the world's largest drone company -- objected to a series of bills proposing to regulate drone use in New York City.

"This is what you're proposing to regulate. It weighs less than three pounds, about the same as the countless seagulls that fly around the city," Brendan Schulman said. "These basically say to the world that New York City is no place for UAV technology. And if you remove the word UAV from those proposals and ask people what this is about, I think they might think it's about guns or toxic chemicals or something serious like that."

At Monday's hearing, seemingly every city agency -- including the police, fire, and parks departments -- expressed interest in flying unmanned aerial vehicles to aid in their duties.

One bill proposed to restrict how, when, where and why the city might use drones. Another bill would forbid drones from conducting surveillance or carrying weapons. And a third required civilian drone users to register their device, buy a drone insurance policy, and affix an identification tag to their drone.

"I'm very concerned with what I see in the proposals," Schulman said.

The New York Civil Liberties Union voiced support for the proposed bills.

"It is not beyond dispute that certain uses of UAVs pose a significant risk to public safety," Rashida Richardson said.

Representatives from various drone groups didn't dispute that claim and supported regulation. But they found New York City's proposed legislation not only unnecessarily strict but perhaps also overstepping the city's jurisdiction. One person testified that the federal government, not the city, has the exclusive jurisdiction over airspace.