Ag Drones okayed for Ag Use
Sunnyslope--Palouse Farmer Robert Blair demonstrated drones to Canyon County farmers last night at Bitner Vineyards. The Federal Aviation Administration grounded UAV flights and lifted the ban earlier this year.
“I had to stop flying my fields when the the FAA issued the ban.But now we're back in business," said Blair.
Faced with rising input costs, the number of farmers using drones doubles each year because its viable way of cutting input and keeping yields up.
“The advantage of UAV’s is that its cheaper. We produce higher resolution images because we fly low and can get leaf-size resolution on a plant and you cant get that with manned aircraft,” said Bradly Ward, former Air Force drone pilot and now a UAV Ag consultant.
“To remain profitable in this day and age farmers have to cut costs on the input side because we have little control once it leaves the farm,” added Blair,
Blair uses an unmanned aerial vehicle similar to military drones, but Ag UAV’s are much smaller, most are made of styrofoam. The remote control planes map and analyze fields with sharp precision. The high-resolution photos from the drones form a mosaic image of the field that complements work on the ground.
“I would argue that our UAV’s are safer, In a lot of cases the planes we fly weigh just a pound and-a-half and they're made of foam. The most hazardous part of our flights is driving to the field. I haven’t heard of an aviation accident caused by an Ag drone,” said Ward.
Congress passed a law in 2012 directing the FAA to publish rules permitting commercial drone flights by fall of 2015. Attorneys representing UAV interests think the FAA ban is an end-round approach of implementing new regulations without going through public input, economic impact analysis.
“This is new technology and the FFA must ensure that the air is safe. Sure, they’re being conservative and making sure there’s an even level of safety. When unmanned systems can prove they’re safe as regular aircraft, then they’ll consider authorizing for commercial use but that could take a while,” said Ward.