The American Farm Bureau Federation, Informa Economics and Measure, a drone as a service company, have released a study that identifies and quantifies the benefits of drone technology in precision agriculture. Version 1.0 of the Return on Investment (ROI) Calculator quantifies the economic benefits of drone as a service for three applications: field crop scouting, 3D terrain mapping and crop insurance. It initially covers corn, wheat and soybeans— three of the largest production crops— which allows growers to quickly and easily determine if drone technology would be worthwhile after getting results from farm data entered into the ROI Calculator.
New Mexico State University has been selected by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to conduct the first dam inspection using an unmanned aircraft system. NMSU will collaborate with the Bureau of Reclamation staff to develop the concept of operations, address safety requirements, select the unmanned aircraft system and appropriate sensors, flight procedures and to perform the inspection. The research project will gather information with unmanned aircraft systems as a tool for infrastructure inspection in the future using light detection, ranging, infrared, photogrammetry and HD video. www.usbr.gov/research
Sentera has been approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to operate drones for commercial applications. The company’s equipment has over 20,000 hours of total flight time. In 2014, Sentera equipment captured 15 million photos, mapped more than 24,000 square miles, logged over 12,000 hours of flight time and managed over 175,000 GB of data.
Drone no-fly zone in California will stifle innovation
California lawmakers have sided with privacy advocates to pass a bill that bans drones from flying lower than 350ft (106m) over private property. If the bill is signed by Governor Jerry Brown it will create a no-fly zone and make it a trespass violation for someone to fly an unmanned aircraft or drone over private property below 350ft without the consent of the owner or tenant. SB 142 passed a third reading in the California State Assembly despite pressure from drone users and manufactures who say the new law will stifle innovation in the growing industry. www.theguardian.com
Drone delight: North Dakota test site set to fly high at all hours
Of the six sites in the U.S. where researchers are trying to figure out how to integrate unmanned aircraft into civilian airspace, only North Dakota’s can fly high both day and night. The FAA approved a plan recently that allows drones to be flown up to 1,200 feet above the entire state and permits flights at night, a combination that makes North Dakota unique, since other test sites are limited to a 200-foot blanket and daylight hours.
DOT’s Inspector General (IG) plans to begin an audit this month of FAA’s current processes for approving civil unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) operations and overseeing their safe operation, noting “the significant and complex challenges” of safely integrating UAS into the national airspace system.
The IG noted that, “UAS technology is rapidly advancing, with a vast array of potential commercial applications, such as filmmaking, precision agriculture, and package delivery. Some analysts have predicted that as much as $91 billion will be invested in UAS technology worldwide over the next decade. However, until recently, FAA has prohibited commercial UAS operations with very limited exceptions due to the lack of regulations governing their use.” www.aviationnews.net