FAA Rule Change for Farm Drones

Dan Agri-Business, Technology


There’s an FAA rule change for some farming operations. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is making it easier to use drones for spraying crops. Arthur Erickson is the CEO and co-founder of Hylio, which designs, manufactures, and sells crop treatment drones. He says the rule change was needed.

“Drones hit the scene very rapidly in the last five or six years. So, the FAA didn’t have time to come up with regulations specific to drones. What they did was, they took all the regulations that are meant for crop dusting airplane pilots and helicopter pilots, and they tried to fit that square peg into the round hole of drones,” he said. “That created this really long application certification process that drone pilots had to go through, which was to the same level of stringency as the manned aviation pilots had to go through. That was just a needlessly long and difficult process.”


However, Erickson points out that there is a public safety aspect to the regulations. The FAA says 14 CFR Part 137 governs the use of aircraft, including drones, to dispense or spray substances (including disinfectants). The new streamlined process allows the FAA to streamline both the Part 137 agricultural UAS certification and the drone exemption process for visual line of sight (VLOS) operations conducted within the altitude and airspeed limitations stipulated by the exemption.

 In addition, applicants no longer have to submit documents to their local Flight Standards District Office. Instead, the applicant must fill out form FAA Form 8710-3 and submit their exemption number to UAS137Certificates@faa.gov for the FAA to begin the certification process. Erickson says the changes open up the industry. “It’s a massive opening up the floodgates type of moment, I would say. It’s not quite as easy as buying a car, but it’s almost there,” he said.

Sabrina Halvorson
National Correspondent / AgNet Media, Inc.

Sabrina Halvorson is an award-winning journalist, broadcaster, and public speaker who specializes in agriculture. She primarily reports on legislative issues and hosts The AgNet Weekly podcast. Sabrina is a native of California’s agriculture-rich Central Valley.