By Joe Dales, Farms.com
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, FAA released a list of proposed rules which will allow small (under 55 pounds) commercial unmanned aircraft to perform agricultural tasks — crop monitoring, aerial photography, inspections of grain elevators and more. The FAA proposal offers safety rules for small UAS (under 55 pounds) conducting non-recreational operations. The rule would limit flights to daylight and visual-line-of-sight operations. It also addresses height restrictions, operator certification, optional use of a visual observer, aircraft registration and marking, and operational limits.
Final rules are probably two to three years away. The rules may also include a separate category with fewer restrictions for very small drones, likely to be defined as less than 4.4 pounds.
The Federal Aviation Administration released a variety of proposed requirements for commercial operators to meet, such as passing a knowledge test administered by the agency as well as a federal security check. The small drones could travel as fast as 100 mph, at altitudes of 500 feet or lower. Flights over crowds would be prohibited. Here is the link to the FAA news release.
“We have tried to be flexible in writing these rules,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “We want to maintain today’s outstanding level of aviation safety without placing an undue regulatory burden on an emerging industry.”
Even with the proposed safety restrictions, drones can transform urban infrastructure management, farming, public safety, coastal security, military training, search and rescue, disaster response and more, the White House said in a presidential memorandum on privacy released in conjunction with the rules.
The memorandum lays out measures federal agencies must follow to guard against abuse of data collected in their drone flights. Among other steps, the order requires agencies to review privacy and civil rights protections before deploying drone technology and to adhere to a range of controls. Personally identifiable information collected in drone flights is to be kept no longer than 180 days, although there are exceptions.
The FAA currently bans commercial drone flights except for a few dozen companies that have been granted waivers. That ban will stay in place until regulations become final, but FAA officials plan to continue granting waivers case by case. About 300 waiver requests are pending and new requests are being filed almost daily.
The FAA said it won’t require an “airworthiness certificate” for small drones. The design and manufacture of each model of manned airplanes and helicopters go through a rigorous approval process by the FAA before they are granted airworthiness certificates.
Agronomist Steve Redmond from Hensall Coop has been working with a UAV.
A Precision Agriculture conference is being held in London, ON on February 25,26 and will have a session on Unmanned Aerial Systems. For more information visit