The NAAA (National Agricultural Aviation Association) asks that all drone pilots be extra mindful of low-flying agricultural aircraft as the industry continues to struggle on the back of the pandemic, making any delay a much bigger issue than it would have been pre-pandemic.
Agricultural aircraft can fly as low as 10 feet off the ground, making drones a highly apparent threat as this is well below the 400-foot limit for drones. The aircraft get this low to the ground for crop dusting or top dressing crops with fertilizer.
The NAAA has recommended the following list to improve drone flights’ safety and avoid dangerous situations.
- Equip drones with tracking technology, such as ADS-B In, so you will know ADS-B Out equipped crewed aircraft positions.
- Get certified and well-trained in operating a UAV.
- Contact local agricultural aviation operations before flying by consulting AgAviation.org/findapplicator.
- Equip UAVs with visible strobe lights and high-visibility marking.
- Give the right-of-way to a crewed aircraft. It’s the law.
- Land your UAV immediately when a low-flying aircraft is nearby.
- Carry UAV liability insurance.
A test conducted by the Colorado Agricultural Aviation Association found that pilots flying at normal speeds couldn’t track a 28-inch-wide drone, making drone sightings more of a “now you see it, now you don’t” type of thing. Another study also showed that a drone could cause more damage to an aircraft if struck due to the dense batteries and motors.
NAAA CEO Andrew Moore shared:
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) declared crop input services to be an essential service during the pandemic. Aerial applicators are inputting nutrients, seeds, and crop protection products to crops that will become consumers’ food and fiber supply. We cannot afford even a small disruption in the nation’s food supply chain during this critical time. Agricultural aviators perform applications on 28% of cropland nationwide, and their work cannot be delayed because of an unidentified UAS not yielding to them, as is required by law.