NFU Assistant Land Management Adviser, Rupert Weaver, looks at drones, the regulations surrounding them and their potential use in the farming industry.
Many of you will have noticed drones appearing in the media more and more; aircraft near-misses, drugs being flown into prisons, and parcel deliveries of your online orders – but less talked about is what’s going on in the countryside.
The countryside has vast potential for drone use, with on-farm applications both by farmers and organisations such as the Environment Agency, as well as by utility companies for inspecting the infrastructure which crosses our countryside.
These applications have numerous potential advantages for farmers, from economic and environmental benefits from more targeted management decisions, through to less disruption from utility companies.
Inevitably with any new technology, their increased use has also brought with it numerous challenges. For commercial organisations it raises concerns about privacy and data ownership, with casual users there are the unintended consequences of trespass and possible harm to livestock, and finally there are malicious users for whom a drone might be the latest tool in the thief’s toolbox.
As an organisation we want to ensure that farmers have access to the latest technology and innovation, but we also need to ensure that the misuse of technology is addressed without bringing in excessive or restrictive regulations. Our recent response to the consultation on the safe use of drones in UK reflected this balance, and following on from this consultation the government has launched a call for evidence for an inquiry to consider how the benefits of drone technology can be maximised within a robust safety framework.
It is too early to say for certain what shape the drone industry is heading towards, aside from that it is showing no signs of slowing down, and so it will be essential that any regulations have the flexibility to adapt to future changes.
We’ve put together a handy Q&A on drones; it’s by no means exhaustive but should answer some of the most common questions – and yes, we do explain why you really shouldn’t shoot down a drone.
Read it here...