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Opinion: NYC Must Clarify Where, When Drones Can Fly

Drones can now do lots of things in this city better than people can. They can help look carefully at buildings’ roofs and facades without the need for scaffolding and sidewalk sheds, among other things.

drones
(TNS) — Dispatch from the future, which is already here: Drones can do lots of things in this city better than people can. They can help look carefully at buildings’ roofs and facades without the need for scaffolding and sidewalk sheds. They can fly through a smoke-choked building searching for people without risking firefighters’ lives. Rather than requiring the use of loud helicopters to get aerial shots for movies, or to see rush hour traffic, quieter flying cameras can get the job done cheaper and easier. Done right, delivery drones either in the air or on the sidewalk might someday soon ease the package-delivery congestion that now blocks car and bike lanes.

So why has the city still not made clear under what circumstances remote-piloted vehicles are allowed and where they will remain verboten? Brooklyn Councilman Justin Brannan has for years been pushing a common-sense bill — one supported by the likely next mayor, Eric Adams — to allow drone building safety inspections. Broader legislation by Brannan would let drones fly in the five boroughs for a range of purposes, while requiring them to be registered with the city’s Department of Transportation, be covered by a liability insurance policy and have an owner’s identification tag. Say no to potentially scary or intrusive private and police uses of such technology; say yes to those that make sense.

(Importantly, the FAA bans drone flights near airports and out of the pilot’s line of sight, restrictions that would stay in place no matter what we do here.)

And while we’re on the subject, we’re a-okay with the CIA and the military using drones to spy on our enemies and zap foreign terrorists. But the use of drones beyond America’s borders must also be strictly controlled, and computers should never, ever be making decisions about when to use deadly force. People and governments, not hackable bits of software code, must be held responsible for killing people.

The United States should lead the world to say no to robot warfare.

© 2021 New York Daily News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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