The National Agricultural Aviation Association (NAAA) has launched a remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) safety campaign to raise awareness and prevent accidents between RPA operators and low-altitude manned aircraft.
The first public outreach tool in the safety campaign is a “safety stuffer” designed for aerial applicators to share with farmers and other agricultural stakeholders. Sized to fit into a No. 10 envelope, the double-sided insert illustrates the safety concerns ag pilots have about hard-to-see RPAs — also known as unmanned aerial vehicles, unmanned aerial systems and drones — and provides recommendations for safe and responsible operations in rural areas.
NAAA has also produced a short video titled “Safe UAV Operations Around Low-Flying, Manned Aircraft,” which is available online.
The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International expects agriculture to make up 80% of the potential market for commercial RPAs once the FAA finalizes its rules regulating the commercial use of unmanned aircraft systems. That notion has been reinforced by media reports chronicling a fervor among farmers eager to purchase their own RPA to use for crop-sensing and aerial imaging. However, NAAA officials say they are concerned that the widespread use of RPAs, without safe and proper integration, will create conditions ripe for low-level aviation accidents.
“When agricultural aviators cannot see objects they will very likely collide with them,” NAAA Executive Director Andrew Moore said. “Sadly, accidents from collisions with wires and unmarked towers have taken the lives of agricultural pilots. These kinds of accidents generally occur because of an inability by the ag pilot to see the obstacles or lack of information of their whereabouts. There’s no doubt that UAVs will have a similar jeopardizing safety effect on us if ag pilots are unable to see or locate them.”
In addition to lobbying Congress and the FAA for UAV regulations that protect agricultural aviators and other low-flying manned aircraft, NAAA has enlisted its members and state association partners to help educate farmers, crop consultants, ag retailers and the public about safe and responsible UAV operations in rural areas. The UAV safety stuffers are one component of that.
One side of the ad insert features an ag pilot taking evasive action as an oncoming quadcopter approaches. “UAVS CAN BE HAZARDOUS TO LOW-FLYING PILOTS,” the headline declares. The subhead states, “Don’t Bet the Farm by Putting UAV Operations Above Pilot Safety.” The other side shows a UAV hovering over the same field an ag aircraft is spraying. “SEE AND AVOID,” the headline declares, “Manned Aircraft Must See a UAV to Avoid It.”
- Get certified and well-trained in operating a RPA
- Equip RPAs with strobe lights and tracking technology, like an ADS-B Out system
- Always give the right-of-way to the manned aircraft. It’s the law.
- Coordinate with local aircraft operators about RPA operations.
- Carry sufficient RPA liability insurance.
Samples were mailed to NAAA operator members and 35 state/regional agricultural aviation associations in early July. The UAV safety stuffers are free to NAAA members and available to non-members for $25 per 100 pack. More information is available at AgAviation.org/uavstuffers.