Beginning in August 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration enacted their “Part 107 rules,” which put an end to the legal limbo that commercial drone operators previously found themselves in. The table below is a summary of the rules that will be most relevant to agricultural users. You should also scan the full set of rules found here.
|Selected Part 107 Rules|
|Maintain visual line of sight (VLOS)||Practically this means a few hundred yards for a drone like the Agrion. Binoculars are not allowed.|
|Daylight operations||Since field photographs would be useless at night this restriction isn’t a problem.|
|Below 400 ft above ground level (AGL)||If you are inspecting a structure you are allowed to go up to 400 ft above the building.|
|Can operate from a moving vehicle in “sparsely populated” areas||“Sparsely populated” is not defined but most agricultural land should fit in this category.|
|Flight allowed in Class G airspace||Class G is the least congested airspace and is uncontrolled (that does not mean unregulated…). Prior approval of ATC is required to operate in Class B/C/D/E airspace. Allow up to 90 days. Almost all farmland would be in Class G airspace.|
|Offset from airports||Unlike the previous rules there is no restriction to stay 3 or 5 miles from an airport. Nonetheless we should be good stewards of our airspace and notify the airport manager if we need to survey a field near an airport.|
|Register your drone with the FAA||This is just like obtaining a tail number for a manned aircraft but a lot simpler.|
There are, of course, many more rules in the link above, but this list hits the ones of most importance to agricultural surveyors.