Simply put, when TheUnmannedFarmer speaks on drones in agriculture, people tend to shut-up and listen.
Robert Blair, the man behind the popular drone-centric blog (TheUnmannedFarmer.blogspot.com) is well-known in precision agriculture circles after becoming the first U.S. farmer to adopt drone technology on his 1500 acre Idaho farm back in 2006.
A few days after the reversal of the now-infamous Pirker decision by an NTSB administrative judge, we connected with Blair to get a handle on just how much this hasty decision by regulators will set back the industry.
Matthew J. Grassi: What did you first think of this week’s Pirker reversal upon learning of it?
Robert Blair: “Well first and foremost, the Pirker decision is a major setback, not only for agriculture but for the commercialization of small Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) in the U.S. Regarding agriculture, on June 18 the FAA came out with an interpretation that narrowly defined what the difference is between hobby and commercial aircraft and that was a major setback to agriculture itself, because under hobby rules I can fly any type of hobby airframe over my fields and take any images I want. However, what that interpretation did is if I use that information for making management decisions, it throws me into commercial and I am illegal. My backyard garden – I’m fine, my field crops – I am illegal. But how far is the FAA willing to go? I think they’re getting into the weeds on personal property rights. With all of that being said, the Pirker decision is probably going to be appealed.”
MJG: What are some of the unintended consequences of this decision that you foresee being problematic going forward?
RB: “It certainly has unintended consequences, because under this ruling pretty much anything that flies in the air is now an aircraft. So are they going to start regulating archery – an arrow is intended to fly – since anything that is able to fly now falls under FAA jurisdication? Hypothetically speaking we don’t expect that to be the case, but these are some of the things that, by the FAA not having commercial rules in place, it is just adding to a lot of misunderstanding and frustration, especially in trying to use UAVs for commercial use. It’s really frustrating, and by FAA not having commercial rules that make sense in my opinion its creating more of a safety issue in the airspace than having clearly defined rules so people can 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