Farmers Displeased with FAA’s Proposed Drone Rules

While the FAA’s proposed drone rules announced last month seem to acknowledge the time has come for commercial drones to take flight, several sectors aside from Amazon, are not pleased, and these include farmers.

“Today’s proposed rule is the next step in integrating unmanned aircraft systems into our nation’s airspace.” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in a conference call with reporters. “We are doing everything that we can to safely integrate these aircraft while ensuring that America remains the leader in aviation safety and technology.” See here


Drones for Farming

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Yet, part of the proposed body of rules does not sit well with farmers.

A Reuters report said that U.S. farmers hoping to use drones to locate lost livestock or monitor trouble spots in their fields were disappointed by what they say are overly restrictive commercial drone rules proposed Sunday by the Federal Aviation Administration. Two of the long-awaited draft rules were singled out for particular criticism: a requirement that pilots remain in visual contact with their drones at all times and a height restriction that limits the crafts to flying no more than 500 feet above ground. These constraints, farmers and drone operators say, would limit a drone’s range—and consequently its usefulness. Read more at

Despite these, however, the new rules are found by investors to be “friendlier to farmers than they are to” “People are looking for where the opportunities are … and agriculture is it,” said Rob Leclerc, chief executive of AgFunder, an online platform for investors in agriculture technology, the above report continues.

An analytic report by the Harvard Business Review explains why the restrictive requirement of FAA’s proposal that drones be flown within the line of sight still grounds most drones geared for commercial applications, and that include using drones for aerial photography services.

When it comes to flying electronic devices weighing up to 55 pounds, safety is an essential requirement. But are the delays justified? The short answer is no. The proposed rules are vague and incomplete, where they could easily be straightforward and even obvious. Special rules for micro-drones should have come first, not just hinted at last. And an unnecessarily restrictive requirement that all drone operation require continual “line of sight” visibility and daylight-only operation means that some of the most high-potential applications, including local delivery services and nighttime agricultural monitoring, are still banned.  Read more here:

In other words, these constraints are not necessarily for the purpose of assuring safety in airspace, but more of bureaucracy and interest group politics, according to the above HBR analysis.

Although there is still the likelihood FAA will ease the contentious restrictions in the proposed rules when they are finalized, still it will take about two years to take full effect, and such delays could strain cash-strapped startups, which could be out of business before the market booms, say industry analysts. (Reuters)


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