July 29, 2014. Advances in technology have made the use and availability of UAVs in the private sector a much more frequent occurrence. With the rise of UAVs farmers and ranchers are exploring options for employing these machines in their daily operations. Without question UAVs can provide a multitude of opportunities for farmers and ranchers. They can be employed to scout difficult to access areas of your farm to assess land and crop conditions, provide precise spraying, and monitor livestock heard activity in isolated areas. As technology continues to develop, it is highly likely additional applications will emerge.

With the emergence of this new technology issues regarding regulation, or the lack thereof, have become central to the discussion. The Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) is currently tasked with developing regulations as it relates to the commercial use of UAVs, which would include their use in agricultural applications. The FAA’s current position is that the commercial use of UAVs, in almost all situations, is illegal. Many farmers and ranchers who use UAVs in their operations contend that their use is akin to the operation of a model aircraft, which is not subject to FAA regulation. However, the FAA, in a 2007 Notice, specifically stated that “You may not fly a [UAV] for commercial purposes by claiming that you’re operating according to the Model Aircraft guidelines.”

Current guidance provided by Congress to the FAA suggests that the commercial use of UAVs will soon be allowed. More specifically, Congress stated that the FAA needs to develop regulations that allow for the “safe integration” of UAVs into the airspace by September 30, 2015. The FAA is hoping to issue proposed regulations by the end of 2014. It is highly likely that these regulations, which will cover UAVs weighing 55 pounds or less, will cover provisions related to the commercial use of UAVs, including their use in agricultural operations.

For more information regarding UAVs/Drones and Agriculture, contact Goosmann Law Firm at info@goosmannlaw.com or call 712-226-4000.

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