Last week we reported on how drones held some important applications for agriculture. A recent air show in Illinois that featured drones drew hundreds of farmers. Yet, the lack of regulations by the government and the lack of clear cut legal precedents could spell trouble for those who try to take off. Todd Janzen, an Indiana Attorney, told HAT that the FAA has not released any rules on the use of drones and, for the time being, considers flying them for commercial purposes illegal, “The FAA says flying drones for recreation or hobby use is OK, but if it is being used for a commercial use that that is illegal. A use for a farm would fall somewhere in between.” He added, currently, farmers are most likely using a drone for a hobby but eventually they will want to use it for commercial applications.
In 2012, Congress mandated the FAA to come up with rules for the use of commercial drones by next year. Janzen said so far the agency has been silent, “There are a lot in the industry that feel the FAA will not meet the deadline; but the FAA keeps saying they will, so we will just have to wait and see.” He hopes that eventually the agency will come up with something that safely integrates the use of drone technology for agriculture without leaving people wondering if they are doing something unlawful.
FAA regulations, or the lack thereof, are only part of the problem. Issues such as trespassing and privacy also come into play when flying drones. Janzen says here, too, there are no clear cut answers, “There are a myriad of state laws that deal with privacy and trespass as applied to drone technology.” There are few legal precedents that deal with flying drones over your neighbors’ fields or taking photos of your neighbors crops.
Despite all this uncertainty, Janzen is optimistic the drones do have a future in agriculture, “I think the FAA will give the green light for uses of drones in agriculture in the next year and that will really open up the skies to this new technology.” And, at its policy meeting over the weekend, Indiana Farm Bureau added a new section to its policy book that covered drones and the kind of regulations Farm Bureau would like to see.