How Drones are Changing Farming
April 21, 2016
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  • Perhaps the biggest industry ripe for drone use is farming and some are in a holding pattern as they wait for FAA regulations.

    Unmanned aerial vehicles can be powerful tools for farmers.

    “We’re at the cutting edge of this,” said Brad Fausett, CEO of ArkUAV.

    Brad Fausett’s business, ArkUAV has the drones capable of creating change in the agriculture industry.

    “These things run off GPS as do the tractors and there’s a way to couple all of this stuff together with the right infrastructure, so you’re smart farming efficiently,” Fausett said.

    Retrofitted with additional devices to collect more information such as thermal sensors.

    “You could see where drainage patterns were in your field,” Fausett. “You could see where dead spots or micro–nutrients spots were in your field.”

    Fausset has been waiting since last July for a commercial license through the FAA. Without it, he cannot charge for his work at the Dunbar Community Gardens. The U of A Extension office—also met with the same roadblock.

    “They’re really hampering the development of this technology,” said John Robbins, and UA Extension Horticulture specialist.

    Jim Robbins used to fly a drone for the Extension Service helping agricultural producers in the state through various outreach programs.

    “Until all of us see what kind of regulations the FAA provides us with for permanent guidelines, we just don’t know,” Robbins said.

    So, the Extension Service decided to let its license expire in 2014. That drone, now sits in a box.

    “It’s unfortunate that the FAA doesn’t recognize that this is an extremely low risk environment and should probably be separated out and viewed from a different avenue,” Robbins said.

    Fausett and Robbins hope those in control can come up with something a bit more down to Earth.

    “We strongly believe that there needs to be in place a strong set of rules, but they just need to be rational,” Robbins said.

    The ArkUAV recently received its exemption from the FAA to fly unmanned aerial vehicles for commercial use.