Lindsay Mitchell

Jun 22, 2016  |  Today's News

Yesterday, the Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration finalized regulations for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS or “drones”) under 55 pounds that will take effect late this August.

Illinois Corn has been advocating for regulations that would still allow farmers adequate use of UAS on their farms for commercial use.

The new rule, simplifies the process for the commercial use of drones. Previously, the FAA only authorized commercial uses on a case-by-case basis. Under the new rule, drones weighing less than 55 pounds can fly at altitudes of up to 400 feet and up to 100 miles per hour during the day (30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset, local time). Drones must stay within the operator’s visual line-of-sight. The rule bans night time operation without an FAA waiver; operation from a moving vehicle or aircraft; carrying hazardous materials; operation over any persons not directly participating in the operation; operation under a covered structure or inside a covered stationary vehicle.

Commercial drone pilots must obtain a remote pilot airman certificate with a small UAS rating or be under the direct supervision of a person who has one. To qualify, a person must:

  • Be at least 16 years of age.
  • Pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA knowledge testing center, or
  • Hold a part 61 pilot certificate, complete a flight review within the previous 24 months and complete a small FAA UAS training course.
  • Be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration.
  • Part 61 pilot certificate holders may obtain a temporary remote pilot certificate immediately upon submitting an application.
  • Note: Recreational drone operators are still required to register their hobby drones.

The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) estimates that agriculture will account for as much as 80 percent of all commercial UAS use. Applications of unmanned aerial systems include crop scouting; early detection of pest infestations and crop disease; more precise application of fertilizers and other crop inputs; and reducing the need for humans in potentially dangerous tasks.

"These are common-sense rules that create a culture of safety and responsibility, while ensuring farmers have the access, tools, and training to take full advantage of UAS technology," said Chip Bowling, NCGA President.