Under relaxed FAA regulations released in June and set to go in effect Aug. 29, farmers from across the nation will be able to legally take their field scouting to the sky, opening wide a multibillion-dollar agricultural market that, according to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems, could account for 80 percent of all drone use…
Under the new rules, drone operators will be able to obtain certification for commercial use via a written test and vetting by the Transportation Security Administration. Use will be limited to drones that are under 55 pounds and flying below speeds of 100 mph. They also must be kept within line of sight and can’t be flown over people, two restrictions that don’t work well for growers wanting to scout large stretches of acreage where there may be farm laborers at work.
But agriculture industry representatives said the new regulations put valuable technology in reach for farmers or ranchers who don’t have a pilot’s license, which is needed to get a “Section 333” waiver to fly unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or unmanned aircraft systems (UASs).
“There was only one game in town and that was that Section 333 waiver. So any farmers who were interested in utilizing this technology, using UAVs, drones, UAS, all the names we like to call them … they had to go through this burdensome bureaucratic waiver process,” said R. J. Karney, director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation. “It’s a great initial step. It’s really going to allow farmers to utilize an emerging technology that’s going to give farmers that new tool in the tool box that they can use for their precision agriculture techniques. That’s an exciting opportunity.”