The National Agricultural Aviation Association (NAAA) has launched a UAV safety campaign to raise awareness and prevent accidents between UAV operators and low-altitude manned aircraft.
The first public outreach tool in the safety campaign is a leaflet designed for aerial applicators to share with farmers and other agricultural stakeholders. The double-sided insert illustrates the safety concerns agricultural pilots have about hard-to-see UAVs and provides recommendations for safe and responsible UAV operations in rural areas. NAAA has also produced a short video titled “Safe UAV Operations Around Low-Flying, Manned Aircraft.”
The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International expects agriculture to make up 80 percent of the potential market for commercial UAVs once the Federal Aviation Administration finalizes its rules regulating the commercial use of unmanned aircraft systems. That notion has been reinforced by media reports chronicling a fervor among farmers eager to purchase their own UAV to use for crop-sensing and aerial imaging. However, NAAA is concerned that the widespread use of UAVs, without safe and proper integration, will create conditions ripe for low-level aviation accidents.
“When agricultural aviators cannot see objects they will very likely collide with them,” NAAA Executive Director Andrew Moore said. “Sadly, accidents from collisions with wires and unmarked towers have taken the lives of agricultural pilots. These kinds of accidents generally occur because of an inability by the ag pilot to see the obstacles or lack of information of their whereabouts. There’s no doubt that UAVs will have a similar jeopardizing safety effect on us if ag pilots are unable to see or locate them.”
In addition to lobbying Congress and the Federal Aviation Administration for UAV regulations that protect agricultural aviators and other low-flying manned aircraft, NAAA has enlisted its members and state association partners to help educate farmers, crop consultants, agriculture retailers and the public about safe and responsible UAV operations in rural areas. The UAV safety leaflets are one component of this.
The leaflet recommends several practices to protect manned and unmanned aircraft operating in low-level airspace, such as obtaining certification in operating UAVs, equipping UAVs with strobe lights and tracking technology such as ADS-B Out, and co-ordination with local aircraft operators.
The NAAA has also joined a coalition of aviation and UAV stakeholders in backing the “Think Before You Launch” campaign, a cooperative effort between UAV stakeholders and low-altitude aviation groups to prevent accidents by providing detailed safety information to all potential users operating in low-altitude airspace.
The coalition began as a state initiative between the Colorado Agricultural Aviation Association, the Colorado General Aviation Alliance, Avian LLC, the Colorado Pilots Association, UAS Colorado and Agribotix. With the addition of NAAA, the North Carolina Agricultural Aviation Association, the Nebraska Aviation Trades Association and other organizations, Think Before You Launch has expanded into a broader, national coalition.