Kentucky farmers will soon be seeing clearer skies to make drones a bigger part of their operations thanks to new federal rules.
The Federal Aviation Administration recently released a list of updated operational rules regarding small drone use and is considering issuing exemption waivers to certain groups, like farmers.
Those new rules include requiring pilots to keep the unmanned aircraft within a visual line of sight, height and speed restrictions and prohibiting flights over people on the ground not directly participating in the drone's operation.
That rule doen't, however, address privacy issues related to harassment or voyeurism as brought before the Kentucky legislature earlier this year.
But a new clause in the FAA ordinance allows certain groups to apply for exemption waivers so long as they prove the drone will be used in safe manner.
Kentucky Farm Bureau Spokesman Jeff Harper says for the most part the waivers will be beneficial, but there are more tweaks needed.
“In agriculture, depending on the nature of the commodity, you could have a drone flying and also have workers in the field and there could be a situation where their entire farmland is not contiguous, so that was just a couple of small things," said Harper. "But overall, it was a very, very good start.”
Harper says few Kentucky farms have embraced using drones, but he thinks they will be much more widespread once tech prices go down and farmers better understand its uses, specifically for safely mapping and surveying farmland.
“After a bad storm or some weather event, if you’re driving around the outskirts of your corn crop, depending on how tall that corn is, there’s no way you can see in the middle of it. With a drone you obviously have an aerial perspective that can see the entire crop and scout out any potential damage due to a weather event.”
The FAA says an online portal to apply for the waivers will open in the next few months.