Lawsuit challenging NYC Drone Restrictions is allowed to proceed

U.S. District Judge Eric Vitaliano of the Eastern District of ruled that Xizmo Media Productions' lawsuit challenging NYC Drone Restrictions is allowed to proceed.

A decades-old section of New York City's administrative code prohibits any aircraft, including unmanned aircraft, from landing and taking off within the five boroughs of New York City.

The Avigation Law, according to Xizmo's representatives, “effectively imposes a complete ban on the operation of unmanned aerial vehicles” within the boundaries of New York City.

According to court documents, Xizmo Media Productions, which specializes in aerial cinematography, is represented by the law firm Muchmore & Associates.

The complaint claims that Xizmo suffered hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages as a result of the New York City Department repeatedly stopping the company's production despite having a Part 107 remote pilot certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and various waivers pertaining to drone use.

The legal counsel for Xizmo claimed that the Supremacy Clause and the First Amendment were violated by the Avigation Law.

The city's legal team claimed that Xizmo failed to “plead either claim with the required degree of specificity” in their motion to dismiss, but the federal judge denied the motion.

NYC drone restrictions conflict with access to airspace

“Though the actual effect of the Avigation Law on drone use must be parsed out in discovery, based on the facts alleged, it is entirely plausible that the Law, especially when viewed in tandem with the FAA's line of sight restriction, operates as ‘a wholesale ban on drone use' that impedes the FAA's and Congress's ability to safely and effectively integrate UAVs into the national airspace,” Vitaliano wrote, according to the New York Law Journal.

Xizmo can proceed with its first claim “on a conflict preemption basis,” according to Vitaliano, who determined that the Avigation Law's application and interaction with FAA regulations “plausibly generates a conflict with federal regulations and impedes the federal government's ability to integrate UAVs into the national airspace system.”

Additionally, Vitaliano determined that Xizmo made a convincing case for why using drones for expressive purposes was a First Amendment-protected activity.

Muchmore and Cusack expressed interest in working with the city to adopt a new interpretation of the Avigation Law that aligns with the FAA Modernization Act of 2012 in a statement.

“This decision extends recognition of First Amendment protection for artists, filmmakers, and journalists utilizing technology to create their works,” Cusack said. “We are grateful for the Court's thorough analysis of the constitutional issues involved.”

On Twitter, drone policy expert, Brendan Schulman said:

“The decision, which is preliminary, agrees with this proposition that despite a city's ability to manage where aircraft takeoffs and landings occur, a city-wide ban poses a conflict with UAS access to airspace, which is authorized and managed by the FAA.”

What do you think about the NYC drone restrictions? Time for the city to lift the ban? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Photo courtesy of FPV Pilot M. Matos.

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Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ or @hayekesteloo.

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