On August 29, 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) operational rules for routine non-hobbyist use of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS or “drones”) went into effect. The FAA states that the rules are intended to minimize risks to other aircrafts and people and property on the ground. Prior to the new rules, the FAA prohibited the use of UAS for commercial purposes, including commercial agriculture and real estate sales.
The rules allow for the use of “small” UAS (under 55 lbs.) to be operated for commercial purposes as long as certain requirements are met; for example, pilots must maintain visual line of sight of the UAS, or line of sight can be maintained by a “visual observer.” The UAS also needs to remain close enough to the pilot to be seen by the pilot without use of a device other than corrective lenses (glasses).
In agriculture, the use of UAS could mean easier and more efficient detection and treatment of diseases caused by blight or pests. UAS can also be used to detect plant stress if a thermal imaging camera is attached. Some farms have used UAS to locate missing livestock. Experts expect that the orchard industry will benefit the most initially from the utilization of UAS in Pennsylvania. As the technology develops and expands, more sectors of agriculture could find benefits as well.
In real estate, the ability to capture aerial images without the need of a manned aircraft opens doors for new marketing techniques, and potentially safer and more efficient inspections of roofs and chimneys.
There are numerous requirements beyond those stated above for compliant use of UAS in commercial activities. For more information on how you can incorporate the use of UAS in your business while remaining compliant, contact Stock and Leader’s Agriculture Industry Group or Real Estate Group.