When deciding whether to let your spouse know you are going out for a beer with friends rather than straight home for dinner, you may have heard the phrase “it is better to ask for forgiveness than it is for permission.” If you haven’t heard that phrase, then I guess we do not have the same type of friends. Recently, I have noted the truism is being entertained by those using drones for scouting crops and other agricultural uses.
Currently, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) bans the use of drones or UAV’s (unmanned aerial vehicles) for almost all commercial purposes; including crop scouting, irrigation equipment monitoring, mid-field weed identification, variable rate fertility, and cattle herd monitoring. Despite the ban, many producers are using drones for these purposes and figure receiving forgiveness would be easier than getting FAA permission.
In response to the unavoidable drone revolution, the FAA has proposed new regulations to govern the use of drones for commercial purposes. The regulations provide several restrictions for drone use including the following:
– UAV weight limit of 55 lbs;
– The operator must be able to see the UAV at all times, unaided by any device;
– Daylight operation only;
– Maximum airspeed of 100 mph;
– Maximum altitude of 500 feet;
– Minimum weather visibility of 3 miles;
Drone operators would also be required to meet the following criteria:
– Pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test and subsequent test every 2 years;
– Be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration;
– Obtain an UAV operator certificate; and
– Be at least 17 years old.
I expect some may not want to hassle with the restrictions or operator certification and continue to ask for forgiveness rather than seek permission. However, as a producer who hires a crop scout, it would be in your interest to make sure the scout has FAA permission before using a drone.