National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson today praised the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for its efforts to address the challenges and promises offered by Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), or drones, operating in the U.S.
The administration today selected two individuals to executive-level positions to guide the agency’s integration of UAVs into U.S. airspace.
“UAVs have significant potential to benefit America’s family farmers and ranchers,” said Johnson. “NFU appreciates these appointments as well as the FAA’s past work soliciting public comments on how to fully realize the potential, and recognize the problems, that could accompany widespread drone use.”
The FAA selected Marke “Hoot” Gibson and Earl Lawrence today to help guide the agency as it integrates Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) into the National Airspace System (NAS). The two will be tasked with external outreach and education, and drone safety, respectively.
Johnson reiterated points laid out in NFU’s comments submitted to the FAA in April 2015. “Initial assessments contend that the technology could be used for surveying and detailed scouting of cattle, insect infestation, insufficient nutrients, and weed presence,” said Johnson. “And as the technology matures and adoption becomes more significant, the uses can evolve to a much wider application. Agriculture is excited and stands by with high expectations.”
Johnson also underscored the potential pitfalls of this widespread UAV use, including privacy concerns and safety hazards for air traffic. Drones have been used with increased frequency to monitor private agricultural operations creating concerns over landowner rights. Airplane pilots have also reported 700 close call incidents with drones this year, triple the number recorded for all of 2014.
“While we recognize the potential benefits that could stem from UAV use in agriculture, we must be aware of the issues that arise with proliferation of this technology,” said Johnson. “In order to achieve meaningful utilization, it is critical that our nation has a standardized and uniform framework for use, safeguards to personal privacy and adequate safety standards.”
“NFU appreciates FAA’s efforts and will continue to engage with the agency over the issues that arise from drone use,” he said.