Illegal Drone Use Over New York City is Steeply Rising

Within a single year, illegal drone sightings in New York City have increased by 68 percent.

When New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo vowed to establish the state’s first drone-testing corridor, this is probably not what he had in mind. New York City has seen an increase in illegal drone use of 68 percent from the first three quarters of 2016 compared with the same period in 2017. 

While this may not be apparent to citizens on the ground, there are certainly aviators in the region who’ve encountered this problematic advent of increased, dangerous piloting of unmanned aerial vehicles. We’re a long ways away from futurist Thomas Frey’s predicted one billion drones, but are also seeing a major, significant increase already. 

According to NBC New York, pilots spotted a total of at least 192 illegal drones in restricted airspace over New York City in the first three quarters of 2017. This steep, 62 percent climb has caused quite the tumult and consideration of solutions from amongst those most affected by these statistics. 

“I just don’t want to see the skies littered with drones,” said Anthony Ianni, a helicopter pilot in White Plains. Ianni claimed he got as close as 300 feet to a drone while maneuvering his chopper above Park Avenue last year. He also reported seeing a UAV whir near the One World Trade tower. 

With an increase in affordability and a decrease in price, drones are definitely becoming more popular, with a growing customer base that may not fully adhere to FAA regulations. With the administration not thoroughly enforcing these strictures anyway, however, it’s becoming clear that there’s an imperfect, loosened agreement between users and the actual law. Some local authorities, however, are adamant they’ll protect the rules at all costs. 

“If you want to take it into your own hands and fly a drone illegally in New York City, just know that the NYPD Aviation Unit will be over your drone in a matter of 8 to 12 minutes,” said Lt. Richard Knoeller

But how serious should New Yorkers that this highly specific threat? Apparently, very. The NYPD downed an unidentified drone whirring over the Macy’s Day Parade and retrieved it. While it belonged to an unsuspecting father and son playing with their new toy, authorities took a no-nonsense approach and responded to this potential threat accordingly. 

Thankfully, there are still some areas in New York City that don’t require an official FAA permission. As long as us New Yorkers are still actually able to fly somewhere, it’s presumably not too much to ask to stay away from parades, critical infrastructure, and uncontrolled environments. The question is, how do we collectively agree on what environment is safe, and when do we go overboard? 

Randy Slavin, a drone-using cinematographer, believes it’s important to weigh both sides of the argument. “When people do things that are stupid with drones they risk tainting and destroying something that has a lot of potential positives,” he said. “The vast majority of drone operators are extremely responsible.” Naturally, we’re very much in agreement with Randy over here at Aerial. Feel free to chime in below with your thoughts.