A "micro" UAV is not necessarily the nano-drone that make the evening news. A 4.4 lb aircraft can still be significant in size and accomplish useful farm related tasks. Sensefly's Ebee Ag drone, for example, has a 38" wingspan but weighs only 1.5 lbs., since it is mainly made from Styrofoam. Still, it can cover a huge area in a short span of time since it flies methodically over fields in back and forth swaths.
|Sensefly's Ebee Ag drone weighs only 1.5 lbs.|
- Altitude would be limited to 400 feet.
- Flying over any person would be allowed.
- Drones must be made from "frangible" material--meaning they would break up upon collision with another aircraft or person.
- Flying would be within the line of sight and not more than 1,500 feet away from the operator.
- Fully autonomous flight would be prohibited. Manual control required at all times.
- The operator would not need to take a knowledge test, but could self-certify to obtain a micro UAS airman certificate. This addresses one of the biggest complaints with the small drone rule--that it requires operator approval from the FAA.
The FAA really needs to hear from you about the micro drone rule. I think its a great idea to have a less stringent, micro drone classification and set of rules. But I would encourage the FAA to relax the autonomous flight prohibition in this draft. The real value in crop scouting drones is their ability to methodically cross a field and stitch the images together into a single, high resolution map. That is only possible with autonomous flight.
Send comments before April 24, 2015 to:
U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)
1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Room W12–140
West Building Ground Floor
Washington, DC 20590–0001