Today’s drones are used early in the planting cycle to analyze soil, provide data on irrigation, and help with nitrogen management. Some drone-planting systems can decrease planting costs by as much as 85% and can provide immediate data on crop health, plant stress, yield, and more. Fixed wing varieties can fly up to 800 acres in an hour and process that data to help farmers quickly get a birds-eye view of their entire operation so they can make informed decisions.
Interest in the technology is booming, according to the 2016 AgTech Investing Report, which revealed the investment in agriculture technology—largely driven by drones’ work in precision ag technology—nearly doubled from 2014 to 2015. This enthusiasm means improvements in image quality and the caliber of drone-gathered data.
For farmers who currently own an Ag drone or those considering investing in one, it’s important to understand the FAA drone regulations for any commercial unmanned aircraft over 55 pounds.
For commercial operation, the FAA set the following limitations:
- Unmanned aircraft must always remain within the pilot’s visual line of sight.
- Anti-collision lights are required for operation during the dawn and twilight hours.
- Operators are prohibited from flying drones over anyone who is not participating directly in the flight.
- No one can pilot more than one unmanned aircraft operation at one time.
- Operators must be at least 16 years old, acquire a remote pilot certification with a small unmanned aircraft system rating, or be supervised by someone with the certificate.
That said, drone operators can obtain a waiver exempting them from certain restrictions if they are able to prove that their mission will be conducted safely. Fortunately, these regulations are aimed at providing freedom to commercial operations while ensuring safety so agricultural businesses can get the maximum benefit from their investment.
For more information about agriculture drones or FAA regulations for unmanned aircrafts, contact your nearest Papé Machinery location.