In response to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration's (NTIA) and Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) requests for input on unmanned aerial systems (UAS) operations, the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) has touted the benefits of UAS for agriculture and stated privacy concerns for farmers.
In the letter to NTIA, NCGA explains that the association “represents more than 42,000 dues-paying corn grower members and the interests of more than 300,000 farmers.”
“Our members strongly support the use of [UAS] technology as a tool for farmers to manage their farm operations for both production and research. UAS figures to improve the efficiency and safety of many industries, and farming is recognized as one sector that will benefit greatly,” the association writes.
However, it notes, precision agriculture with UAS “does not come without concerns and challenges about data ownership and privacy.”
“We consider farm data to be proprietary information that is sensitive to a farmer’s business and way of life. Any use of UAS, whether commercial, private or governmental, over a farmer’s land that results in data collection should come with explicit consent from the farmer.”
In the comments submitted to the FAA on the agency's proposed rules, NCGA says UAS can “increase chances of early detection of irregularities, [and] farmers are able to treat specific areas of fields rather than mass application of inputs. This has many benefits, for both farmers and consumers: significantly lower operating costs; fewer inputs, such as pesticides and fertilizer; higher yields; and a reduced environmental impact.”
The association acknowledges that “there are safety concerns when integrating a new technology into national airspace.”
“However, restrictions should not be burdensome to a point where the benefits and potential of said technology is nullified.”
NCGA writes that it “welcomes” a micro UAS rule and “agrees with the FAA’s approach to creating a new operator class for UAS operators, rather than requiring those who wish to operate commercial UAS to hold a pilot’s license.”
It notes that “operational restrictions” in the NPRM include keeping the UAS within the visual line of sight of the operator, flying only in the daylight hours and not flying over any people other than those involved in the operation.
“These restrictions should be reexamined in order for the maximum potential in agriculture to be realized,” NCGA writes. “We ask that the FAA be flexible in their rulemaking process so that the rules regulating the technology can keep pace with the innovations.”