Agricultural Association Pushes Drone Safety

The National Agricultural Aviation Association says unmanned aerial vehicles have potential to help farmers, but its new campaign emphasizes that safety needs to come first—especially considering that many of its members take to the skies in low-flying planes.

Drones seem to keep getting into trouble.

From the White House to medical aviation groups, concerns about safety and security remain high, despite the technology’s great potential in fields such as journalism and business—including Amazon deliveries. Now the agricultural industry is speaking up on the issue.

The National Agricultural Aviation Association (NAAA) recently launched its own campaign addressing drone safety at farms across the country. The primary concern is the danger that unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) may present to low-altitude pilots flying over crops.

“When agricultural aviators cannot see objects they will very likely collide with them,” Andrew Moore, the group’s executive director, said in a news release. “There’s no doubt that UAVs will have a similar jeopardizing safety effect on us if [agricultural] pilots are unable to see or locate them.”

Educating Farmers

Looking to raise awareness, NAAA is sending informational pamphlets to educate farmers and industry investors on the issues involving drones. The organization has also released a video covering the topic.

Representing 1,900 members in 46 states, NAAA notes that low-flying agricultural pilots already face many obstacles. The association wants to ensure that drones don’t add to them.

“Sadly, accidents from collisions with wires and unmarked towers have taken the lives of agricultural pilots,” Moore noted. “These kinds of accidents generally occur because of an inability by the pilot to see the obstacles or lack of information of their whereabouts.”

Safety Above All Else

While the drone industry hopes to see farming embrace commercial UAVs, NAAA notes that drone use on farms should be undertaken carefully, especially considering that the Federal Aviation Administration is still finalizing its rules.

“What gets lost amid all the rosy projections for UAVs’ commercial uses is the safety concerns of pilots, and in particular the concerns of aerial applicators and other pilots operating near ground and the lower reaches of the airspace,” the group stated.

NAAA recently joined an eight-group coalition called Think Before You Launch, which focuses on highlighting these safety issues. The association has also lobbied members of Congress and the FAA to ensure farm pilots stay in the conversation.

“It’s up to everybody—NAAA, its state association partners, and aerial applicators—to educate farmers, crop consultants, ag retailers, and the public about safe and responsible UAV operations in rural areas,” the group added.


Patrick deHahn

By Patrick deHahn

Patrick deHahn is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

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