The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced proposed rules for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), also known as “drones.”  Commercial use of drones is currently limited in the U.S., but the new regulations could open up their use for increased and broader applications in civil life, including on-farm operations. The rules now enter a period of public comment, review and revision, which could take months. And that concerns some, who are eager to capitalize on the technological opportunities drones appear to offer.

Luke Runyon (@lukerunyon) reports for Harvest Public Media:

“What makes the drone valuable to farmers is the camera on board. It snaps a high-resolution photo every two seconds. From there, Agribotix stitches the images together, sniffing out problem spots in the process, using infrared technology to look at plant health. Farmers hope that more information about their fields can lead to big savings in their bottom lines. Knowing what’s happening in a field can save a farmer money.”

Will the new federal rules, if approved, herald a new era in on-farm technology?

“I think it’s a very exciting time,” said farmer Darren Salvador. He grows 2,000 acres of wheat and corn near Haxtun, Colo., close to the Nebraska border.

Salvador says with eyes in the sky he can be more precise in how he applies chemicals to the land. If he sees a patch of land more in need of fertilizer he can target it. That could mean less chemical runoff into waterways.

“You can look at disease concern, insect concern, so now you can be more proactive and treat smaller areas and not treat the entire field,” Salvador said.

While some are excited about the benefits of the technology, others have concerns about privacy, and safety.