With the exponential growth of drones sales in the U.S., the skies are about to get more crowded. This has caused concern with regulators in North Dakota as agricultural UAVs take flight over the same farm airspace occupied by (manned) aerial crop sprayers.
After the FAA awarded North Dakota Federal Aviation Administration Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site status to an area near Grand Forks, the state’s Agricultural Aviation Association issued a request that farmers statewide notify aerial sprayers of the location of any UAV flights over their farms.
Col. Robert Becklund, director of the Northern Plains UAS Test Site, told the Bismarck Tribune that, with 90 percent of the hundreds of projected drone buyers using their UAVs for farming, the issue could become volatile if not handled properly.
“If someone buys one of these and flies it himself without knowledge of flight rules and right-of-way rules and they’re out of visual line of sight, they can’t see an ag sprayer. It has potential to be a problem. There’s a little grayness out there in the rules. It needs to be developed.”
Aerial sprayers also recommend that drones be painted with a highly visible color or be marked with a strobe light.
The use of drones in agriculture has sprouted a new industry and fresher innovation as UAV companies develop technology that allows farmers to monitor irrigation lines and monitor crop health.
Kansas-based company AgEagle has even developed an autonomous mapping drone designed for farm reconnaissance. Similar drones include the PrecisionHawk, which “can be outfitted with an array of different sensors that collect data which is then processed by a central ‘hub.’”
In Oregon, farmers use drones to “quickly identify diseases and insects and apply targeted doses of pesticides accordingly.” UAVs have also been deployed to “get along them little doggies” by tracking cattle.
Not only will ag drones help farmers expand their yields but the growth in UAVs down on the farm is expected to generate a bumper crop in profits for drone companies. As reported in DRONELIFE on Tuesday:
The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International projects unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs could be responsible for 100,000 new jobs by 2025. More than 80 percent of those could be in agriculture (emphasis added).