The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released a rule in June allowing farmers to use Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), or drones, starting in late August, with some restrictions.
The rule applies to UASs weighing less than 55 pounds. It will require operators, who must be at least 16 years old, to register their UAS online, pass a written exam at an FAA-approved testing center and pass a US Transportation Security Administration background check. Before the rule change, a pilot’s license was required to operate a UAS for commercial purposes.
“With this rule, farmers will have a chance to dramatically improve their farms,” said Carla Hornady, Alabama Farmers Federation Cotton, Soybean and Wheat & Feed Grains divisions director. “Farmers can use the machines to monitor crops and livestock, so they can be more precise about when to start harvest or quickly locate a cow in the field that is having problems birthing a calf.”
The rule does restrict UAS flights to daylight hours, and the machine must stay in sight of the operator during flight. They cannot be flown within five miles of airports and must stay at or under 400 feet in the air.
An FAA news release stated the rule could generate more than $82 billion for the U.S. economy and create 100,000 jobs in the next 10 years.
There is a 60-day comment period on the final rule, which will take effect in late August.