In late December, a federal law took effect that requires owners to register UAVs with the Federal Aviation Administration. The $5 registration process (the fee will be waived for those registering before Jan. 20) applies to both hobbyist and commercial operators flying UAVs weighing at least 0.55 pounds and less than 55 pounds.
This seems simple enough, and our company recently went through the process of registering our UAV. We needed to create an account with the FAA, which maintains the registry of all documented UAVs and we’ll also need to re-register in 3 years.
Interestingly, the FAA also acknowledged that in the future, the UAV registry will become public and searchable. When this will occur remains to be seen, but the FAA has indicated that public registration searches will include names and addresses of UAV owners. (Credit card numbers and email addresses will not be public).
While some farmers are savvy UAV operators, many are not, but have a mounting curiosity in the practical potential of the technology. For the increasing number of dealers who are selling UAV systems, it will be important for them to advise customers on the regulatory requirements before they take flight.
Perhaps UAV registration will even be a chargeable service offered by dealers, and allow a dealership to track and renew registrations for customers. This customer service could provide another precision touch point for dealers, not only for UAV maintenance, but also for additional technology or equipment sales.
Registration support could also be an entry point to where many dealers see the most revenue potential with UAVs — service. FAA guidelines will ultimately dictate the scope and depth of commercial UAV services that can be billed.
But providing front-end registration support and education could help solidify trust and credibility with customers and minimize the risk that they’ll fly illegally.
There are still plenty of unknowns in the UAV ag market. Any of those uncertainties that dealers can eliminate with their customers today, will likely create more opportunity in the future.