Last week, the National Corn Growers Association submitted comments to both the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration about proposed rules regarding the commercial usage and privacy best practices of unmanned aerial systems (UAS).
In the letter to DOT, NCGA notes that unmanned aerial systems have widespread potential applications for farmers, and will ultimately reduce costs, improve efficiency, and make farming operations more sustainable. For example, when scouting fields, an unmanned aerial system could provide real-time snapshots, taken from better vantage points that allow farmers to better spot and treat irregularities – all at a fraction of the cost and time it would take to do so on foot.
The letter also notes that UAS technology would “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 Federal Aviation Administration is expected to issue a final rule regarding UAS later this year. In writing the final rules governing UAS, NCGA encouraged the FAA to embrace innovation and remain flexible as the technology continues to advance.
In a separate letter to the NTIA, NCGA called for strong rules protecting farmers’ privacy and ownership of any data collected using UAS technology. The letter states, “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.”