With any new, transformative technology you can expect a number of new legal questions will be raised. One of the industries that will feel a strong drone impact is agriculture. When you need to get legal, agriculture related questions answered, Rusty Rumley, senior staff attorney for the National Agricultural Law Center, is who you should be speaking with. He has fielded more that few questions on the subject, here are a few of the more interesting ones:
Question: Do you have any practical advice for a farmer who discovers one of these devices buzzing around in their buildings or home?
Rumley: “A landowner should never try to shoot them down. You can be sued to recover the cost of the UAV and could potentially face criminal charges. You can contact law enforcement because many current models of UAVs do not have extended ranges, and therefore the person that is controlling it may be physically trespassing on someone’s land in order to launch it. You may also be able to sue the UAV operator for nuisance or trespass depending upon the facts and circumstances.”
Question: Can I use a UAV to inspect my own crops without a permit from the FAA?
Rumley: “Not if you sell your crops. The current policy of the FAA is that all commercial uses of a UAV require the operator to obtain a permit. If you are flying a UAV for purely recreational purposes then there is a much lower threshold for operating a UAV, but that would likely not apply to this question.”
Question: Could I use my UAV to catch poachers on our farm legally?
Rumley: “This use may fall into a bit of a gray area. If you are leasing out your farm for hunting purposes to other people then you probably would not be able to use a UAV since keeping off poachers would be a commercial activity. Your land will be more valuable to hunters if you keep poachers off of the property and this could be considered a commercial use. If you are not leasing out the land for hunting purposes then there likely would be no commercial benefit to using the UAV, but you should check with the FAA to ensure that this use is permissible.”
The theme here is that current FAA policies prevent commercial drone use. Thankfully, the FAA provides a route to legal, commercial use. If you or your company want to use drones commercially, then you will need a Section 333 Exemption. As a service, graduates of our drone college, at the Commercially Ready Drone Operator level, receive free Section 333 Exemptions. Drone Universities also offers stand-alone Section 333 Exemption services.
About the National Agricultural Law Center
The National Agricultural Law Center is the only agricultural law research and information facility that is independent, national in scope, and directly connected to the national agricultural information network. As a result of the expanding scope of agricultural law and its convergence with related areas, the Center also includes food law in the scope of its coverage.
Recognizing the importance of the Cooperative Extension Service, the Center is also proud to serve as the lead institution for the eXtension Agricultural and Food Law Community of Practice.