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UAV-Ag Roundtable Yields Important Reminder

By Luke Geiver | March 12, 2015

An unmanned aircraft systems roundtable discussion on the use of UAS for agriculture recently held in Kansas highlights a key point that many may sometimes forget. As you might expect, when a handful of precision agriculture experts, Kansas State University-Salina researchers, corn and wheat farmers, livestock operators and UAS firms got together for the roundtable, there was a lot of talk about the opportunities UAVs can offer to those who properly integrate them into day-to-day business. That type of commentary should be expected.

But, although the allure of what could be in the long-term sometimes overpowers what needs to be done in the short-term for wide-scale UAS use to happen in the future. The speakers at the roundtable helped to remind us of that. When I talked with Billy Brown, agribusiness developer for the Kansas Department of Agriculture about the event post-discussion, he said that many there voiced perspective focused on what the state of Kansas is doing—in writing—that will allow the use of UAS once the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration does finalize some sort of regulations. For Brown and the majority of speakers at the event, getting prepared to launch UAV operations the same day the regulations drop is crucially important.

Although tracking UAS legislation is an ongoing, evolving process, consider these numbers. To date, 10 states have passed some form of UAS legislation; 5 have partially passed UAS legislation; 21 states have proposed legislation; 5 states had UAS legislation die in the last session; and, 7 states have no legislation (the remaining two states had legislation passed but vetoed).

Having been on the North Dakota senate floor for the discussion a UAS bill, I’m the first to admit that those numbers are off in some way, but, they give a rough estimate of which states have legislation in place and which states don’t. For any future operator or manufacturer looking to distribute within the U.S., knowing the presence of any UAS legislation on an individual state basis is important. At least those in Kansas think so. According to Brown, they are ready for launch as long as the state has a written policy of some kind on UAS.