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Proposed NYC law would require drone inspections for building complaints

Robotic aircraft could spot building defects people might miss.
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Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Drones could soon be key to keeping New Yorkers safe from crumbling architecture. Members of the New York City Council have proposed legislation that would require drone inspections within 48 hours of a complaint or confirmed violation. A robotic vehicle (not the Mavic 2 Pro pictured) would use infrared and a pair of conventional cameras to both look for the telltale temperature changes of cracks and inspect roof conditions. The intended drones would cost $2,500 each, but the proposal would reduce costs by offloading the inspections to private companies that would charge building owners.

The drone inspections could alleviate staff shortages at NYC's building department while saving money. More importantly, they could save lives. The council proposal comes days after falling debris from a fined building killed architect Erica Tishman while she was walking below. Ideally, this would have helped pinpoint and fix the problem.

There's one problem: right now, the 1948-era airspace laws would forbid drones. The city would have to relax those laws for this concept to move forward. If that happens, though, drones might soon be a regular part of NYC's landscape.

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