Unmanned Aerial Systems, You Must Understand the Facts for 2014.
By Chad E. Colby Twitter@TheChadColby
One of the most promising new technologies for use in agriculture is Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). These systems have the potential for farmers to monitor their crops for problems in a quick and affordable manner. It is very important to understand the facts about this new technology. I continue to hear of farmers planning to hire newly formed UAS companies for 2014, and that my friends is against the law. If a company is offering you a service to provide images or information from a UAS for a fee – it is ILLEGAL.
Many companies in the Agriculture Industry are investing millions to learn how to understand the capabilities of Unmanned Aerial Systems. In the spring of 2014 you can expect lots of expanded research to understand how to measure the vegetative index of a plant to detect issues like disease, nitrogen deficiency, flooding, etc. To do this they will use infrared and thermal camera technology. Colleges and Universities all over the country are also working to help develop programs for students who can support this new industry. The uses for this technology is truthfully unlimited.
Two different aerial systems exist to do this type of data collection. One is a small helicopter with three to four rotors and the other is a small fixed wing airplane. The one you should choose depends on your mission and which systems works best. Honestly, the actual ship is the easy part. The technology already exists to do almost all functions needed to “scout” and get imagery of any field.
The biggest development over the next year or two will be the camera technology used in the systems. Camera designers are currently working to build a camera specifically for UAS. These cameras hold the future of how effective UAS will be in agriculture. It’s easy to get an infrared image, the challenge is to be able to make effective decisions with the data collected. A few weeks ago I saw a new design of a thermal camera, and wow was it impressive. I will be doing some independent testing of cameras in the spring of 2014 and will be reporting back on those.
One of the major reasons I have become outspoken about UAS is because of the lack of knowledge about this topic. There seems to be some serious confusion about the current Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations. It’s very important if you are considering this application on your farm is to understand the rules. The facts are this simple: If an individual or company flies any unmanned aircraft for commercial use, it’s against the law. Period. You can use a unmanned aircraft for non commercial or private use, provided you operate it correctly as a hobby aircraft.
“FAA guidance says that model aircraft flights should be kept below 400 feet above ground level (AGL), should be flown a sufficient distance from populated areas and full scale aircraft, and are not for business purposes.”
FAA Model Aircraft Operating Standards:
Recently FAA endorses AMA rules to govern personal use of UAS for Precision Ag by www.modelaircraft.org
November 25th… In an online news story by Oklahoma City Channel 9 News, the FAA effectively endorsed AMA’s safety guidelines for the personal use of UAS for agricultural applications. As reported by Justin Dougherty…
“Farmers may operate an unmanned aircraft over their own property for personal use … Guidelines for the operation of model aircraft, such as those published by the Academy of Model Aeronautics, may be used by farmers as reference for safe model UAS operations.”
PL 112-95 enacted by Congress as part of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, provides that individuals operating small unmanned aircraft (model aircraft) for personal use may do so within the programming of a recognized community-based organization (Academy of Model Aeronautics) and in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines.
Academy of Model Aeronautics National Model Aircraft Safety Code
Effective January 1, 2014 http://www.modelaircraft.org/files/105.PDF
So where does this leave you on your farming operation? Get educated about the subject and understand the regulations. Don’t be surprised to see people get in trouble for doing this illegally. FYI it’s a $10,000 fine for your first offense.
To learn the latest attend the next class in Bloomington IL on Feb 15th. Limited amount of attendees.
Check out comments from attendees on twitter search #colbyuas
Learn more here about the class http://agtechtalk.com/unmanned-aerial-system-training/