If drones are going to take to the sky for agriculture, they’ll have to fly through a few regulatory hoops first.
Titan Immel owns Aerofarming, a drone scouting company based out of Adair. The drones he flies can take infrared images of a field to measure chlorophyl levels, revealing which areas are most productive. His drones fly at about 400 feet; Aerofarming is flying under the radar.
Kristine Tidgren with the Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation at Iowa State University says, “There are no waivers, Unfortunately the regulations say that commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicles, which are drones, are not legal.”
Tidgren says the law hasn’t exactly kept up with technology, and Congressional mandate means it will likely be well into 2015 before formal regulations from the Federal Aviation Administration integrate drones into American skies.
She says, “FAA has come out and said that they expect to have some proposed regulations by the end of this year, actually. I mean, it’s not just agriculture, it’s all over the board: real estate, photography, there’s all kind of uses for drones, and so people are clamoring for the regulations to make this legal.”
Immel believes FAA is supportive of the use of drones in agriculture, and says the sooner they take off, the better.
“I’m really trying to utilize the technology we already have in the agriculture industry. I want to be the best that we can be, and we already have the technology to be above and beyond what we already are, but we’re not using it.”