November 25th… In an online news story by Oklahoma City Channel 9 News, FAA effectively endorsed AMA’s safety guidelines for the personal use of sUAS for agricultural applications. As reported by Justin Dougherty…
“Farmers may operate an unmanned aircraft over their own property for personal use … Guidelines for the operation of model aircraft, such as those published by the Academy of Model Aeronautics, may be used by farmers as reference for safe model UAS operations.”
Yes, I agree, though at least this time it's sort of DE-regulation by decree. That's what I found novel, that they're saying someone can do something, rather than that they cannot. And I still hope that this may be an intentional opening of the barn door, which will effectively be impossible to again close and which would thus mean the FAA will no longer have to concern itself with anything regarding small UAVs unless maybe it grossly violates AMA safety guidelines. If so, it's a brilliant maneuver. Nobody is going to give the FAA political grief about "allowing" farmers to do this.
What it says to me is (besides another stab at regulation by decree) why should any person be precluded for personal or even business use. There are plenty of examples of people flying GA planes as part of their business without it being "commercial."
Again, email the FAA and tell them what you think.
As far as I am concerned "FAA Policies" and "Advisory Circulars" are all bogus unless written into the code of Federal Regulations. The FAA is notorious for trying to "regulate by memo".
The test to all this will be with Trappy: while the FAA makes a good point about a model aircraft being an aircraft and therefore able to be regulated and subject to part 91, they have also had long standing "policy" to ignore regulating them.
My opinion is that a farmer using a model aircraft for supporting their business is expressly ALLOWED by the FAR's because flying a model aircraft is merely incidental to their other business and not a major enterprise for profit in an of itself. Check FAR part 1, definition of commercial operator.
I think any news story needs to be taken with a grain of salt unless there is an independently verifiable source from the FAA. Specifically a press release, NPRM, or other official communications. Untill then I still file this under speculation and may happen.
Another interesting aspect is from where the FAA gets the authority to specify that something is or is not OK "over their own land." I don't recall hearing anything else from them, ever, put in those terms. So more ambiguity and fuzziness, I think. Does a farmer's leased land count as his own? Does operating the drone mean hands on the sticks, or can it mean hiring the drone guy at the local high school to come fly? Generally things like this are put in terms on what one can't do, not what one can do. You can't fly over 400 ft, you can't fly out of LOS, you can't make money with it, etc. etc. Here all of sudden there's nothing like that, rather a group is being told that they can do pretty much whatever they want ("Personal Use" covers a heck of a lot of ground). Well, if they get to do whatever they like over their land, then I get to do it over my land, farm or not. (Or is the FAA going to get into the business of determining exactly what constitutes a farm and a farmer? Hey, I have an apple tree in the back yard,,,). And if someone wants to hire me to fly my drone over their property, say to take pictures of their house which they will "personally use" to help sell it, then where is there a substantive difference between that and a farmer cruising his crops? There is no difference. Which means, having given the farmers permission, it will be really hard to deny the same to others. Maybe that's intentional. Some of us have been speculating for a couple of years that the FAA really wants no part of regulating small drones. By doing something like this a door gets quietly opened that will later be really hard to shut. Maybe I'm being too optimistic, but I think we've maybe just been told that if we don't fly over land where we are not wanted and if we follow AMA safety guidelines we can do what we want. Sooo, who wants to be the Guinea PIg? LOL
Like I said, its a start and even though it is undoubtedly purposely ambiguous it is a good start.
The FAA is actually seeming to do something to actively promote a benign but very important use of UAS without it necessarily having to cost a fortune to participate.
I just hope that is a trend that can somehow be leveraged for other uses like photography and videography at the very least, with sensible and reasonable rules.
Farmers are an independent bunch. I was raised in the heart of cotton country in the southeast. I grew up and sprayed cotton for a few years. I found my wife on the farm. I worked with farmers on a daily basis. I know a lot of farmers. Every farmer I know will not take kindly to the FAA telling them what they can and cannot do on or above their land, especially with an absurdly benign five pound foam r/c airplane. The farm community will be our biggest ally and pro sUAS lobby when they fully realize what a sUAS with the right sensors can do for them.
The AUVSI conducted a survey of expected commercial use of UAS. Their estimate of the use of UAS in the USA commercial market is 80% agriculture. That is one huge and powerful lobby.
I attended the Kansas State UAS conference recently where I met two gentlemen who are actively building sUAS, selling to and training farmers to operate sUAS for ag operations with the full knowledge and consent of the FAA as long as the farmers are flying over their own land.
@ Patrick: "Nothing new… farmers could always fly RC"
Exactly, and so could anyone else staying within AMA guidelines, for decades. And therefore this announcement can only be interpreted to mean something additional is newly approved. It's that ambiguous "personal use" apparently (as opposed to the more restrictive "recreational use" we all fly under). That's indeed huge. It's a roundabout way of blessing what in the end is in fact a commercial activity without actually saying so but nevertheless clearly enough that a farmer won't have to worry about violating the law and maybe more importantly it probably makes the activity insurable (definitely an issue as there are always hazards, including flyaways, crashing onto the UPS guy, crashing and starting a fire that gets off the farm, etc., and if the activity that caused such is illegal many policies automatically exclude it.)
So this is a really good start, as Gary says, and in fact would seem to be the first time that the FAA has in effect allowed something that can be construed as a commercial application of "model" aircraft. It's a low-risk move for the FAA, unlikely to have many dramatic crashes etc. and out of the public eye. So they can see how it goes.
I was born in Georgia and raised in Alabama. I love hunting, fishing, camping, grilling, and before I stopped, drinking. What is your definition of a "redneck"? Because mine is an individual that was a member of the UMW that wore red bandannas around their necks in order to strike the West Virginian coal mines. About guns, I served 8 years in the US Army Special Operations and spent more time with firearms than most people spend reading Wikipedia, which it seems is where you like to get your information. Let's keep this about DIY UAVs and leave the derogatory slurs out of it, ok?
Yes nothing new, they have not said farmers can make commercial gain, which is what they would be doing if they used images to increase yields. Its still a medical and exams at very minimum on the table. People just don't seem willing to hear that.