The Federal Aviation Administration next month is expected to issue preliminary guidelines on the commercial use of unmanned aircraft systems or as they are better known, drones.
For the most part, drones are currently banned in the U.S., while other countries have more open use policy. And it could take months, even years before the FAA finalizes its rules.
That’s a problem for many in American agriculture who say the U.S. already is failing to keep up with other nations in drone use that could provide billions of dollars in economic growth.
“We’re behind the eight ball when it comes to places like Japan and Australia, which have been using drones in agriculture since the 1980s,” said R.J. Karney, director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau. “There’s an urgency to get the ball moving on this,” he said.
Karney explained that as other countries develop drones, American farmers are missing out on using technology that could help produce more food.
“It’s not only the potential users but the developers who are having to play catch up,” Karney said.
Tami Griffin, managing director of Aon Risk Solutions’ food system and agribusiness practice, said the U.S. is missing out on a big opportunity to help farmers.
“Drones have great potential for mapping and assessing the health of crops and livestock so that producers can know how quickly they need to devote attention to those areas,” she said.
The U.S. armed services use drones overseas. And at home, they are used in American airspace as unmanned aircraft flying border and port surveillance for the Department of Homeland Security.
They are also used in scientific research and environmental monitoring. Various law enforcement agencies and some state universities conducting research are allowed to use drones.
Smaller drones are used as recreational aircraft or “hobby flying.” And some businesses can be granted exemptions to use drones.
However, farmers cannot use them.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com