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UAS: Know the Laws for Aerial Devices on Farms

UAS: Know the Laws for Aerial Devices on Farms
Knowing the legal limitations of aerial devices is a key factor.

Unmanned Aerial Systems have been used by hobbyists for years.  However as they become a more useful tool on the farm, knowing the law is going to be even more important.  This point can't be stressed enough.

"One of the major reasons I have become outspoken about UAS is because of the lack of knowledge about this topic," says Chad Colby of "There seems to be some serious confusion about the current Federal Aviation Administration regulations."

Colby says it's very important to understand the rules if you are considering UAS applications on your farm. 

Stay within the law: Right now, the most important thing to understand when using this technology is what is legal and what is not. (Photo courtesy of Chad Colby.)

"The facts are this simple:  If an individual or company flies any unmanned aircraft for commercial use, it's against the law. Period. You can use an unmanned aircraft for non -commercial or private use, provided you operate it correctly as a hobby aircraft," he says.

Currently there are no specific guidelines in place by the FAA for these types of flying gadgets to be in the national airspace.  But profit-oriented flights with a UAS are illegal.  Safety and privacy concerns are at the top of the list as the FAA works to incorporate these systems into commercial use guidelines.

Related: FAA Sets up Drone Tests

They can be flown privately and operated over private property, with a landowner's permission and must stay below 400 feet.  The plan is for the FAA to have in place a comprehensive set of rules that will allow these systems to be incorporated into the national airspace by 2015.

Brian Scott of Monticello, Ind., says that after operating his UAS for several months and still in the learning stages that he has had no legal issues yet.

"I need to stay under 400 feet to stay under the air space of planes, helicopters, etcetera," he says. "The FAA does not mess around and can fine you easily.  There aren't a lot of hard and fast rules right now, but that is supposed to be all sorted out by 2015."

Editor's note: This is the third in a series of stories on UAS this week. Catch up using the links below:
What to Call Aerial Technology is an Issue
UAS: A New Tool for Ag
UAS: Big Benefits for Farming Operations

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