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New rules would limit drone use for farmers & ranchers


A proposal at the tail end of 2019 by the Federal Aviation Administration would require remote identification of drones in flight. The American Farm Bureau Federation recently submitted comments to the FAA regarding the rule, reiterating that drone use is an important precision agriculture tool farmers and ranchers use to manage their crops and livestock and make important business decisions,.

Farm Bureau Congressional Relations Director RJ Karney says the rule would require drones to transmit their location.

“Remote identification is the ability of an unmanned aircraft or drone in flight to provide identification and location information so that people on the ground, for example, law enforcement would be able to locate and identify who it is that’s flying that specific drone. The proposed rule requires that drones use remote identification through two systems, the first being a connection to the internet, the second being a broadcast that comes from the drone itself,” added Karney.

Farm Bureau also had concerns about the proposal’s lack of definitions for “internet” and “sufficient signal strength and coverage.” Karney said, “Farm Bureau supports efforts that will create a safe environment for drones to operate. However, there are concerns with the lack of internet in rural America, and even more specifically, out where the farmer will be operating a drone, which would occur out in their fields, over their ranchlands. This lack of access would ground drones for farmers and ranchers who currently do not have internet access.

Farm Bureau submitted comments to the FAA to finalize a rule that would provide flexibility for farmers and ranchers who cannot access the internet. Now Farm Bureau has to wait on the FAA to finalize its proposed rule concerning remote identification.

Farm Bureau had several suggestions for improvement.

  1. FAA’s proposal would require drones to connect to the internet and transmit their remote IDs. But on the 29% percent of farms and ranches without access to the internet, this would be impossible. And while Congress, the FCC, and USDA have acknowledged this problem and are working to increase connectivity for precision agriculture equipment, the proposal fails to take this challenge into account.
  2. Farm Bureau is recommending an either/or approach that would allow the drone to send a remote ID signal through an internet connection if available or broadcast a signal if the internet is unavailable.
  3. As for the limited remote ID requirement, Farm Bureau reiterated its call for FAA to provide an alternative method for operators to signal their location when the internet is not available. Another option is removing the requirement that the drone must connect to the internet since the drone must operate within 400 feet of the ground station and cannot operate beyond visual-line-of-sight under the limited remote ID requirement.
  4. The group’s final recommendation was that the FAA establish a position on its Drone Advisory Committee for an agriculture, forestry, and rangeland representative.
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