What the New Drone Rule Means for Agriculture – Part 2: Rules for Operating Drones

By: Peggy Hall, Assistant Professor and Field Specialist, Agricultural & Resource Law

The FAA’s long awaited rule for drones or “small unmanned aircraft systems” (sUAS) weighing less than 55 pounds will be effective on August 29, 2016. Our previous post explained the rule’s process for obtaining certification as a Remote Pilot in Command (Remote PIC) that will apply to those who operate a sUAS for commercial uses or incidental to a business, such as for farming purposes.  In this post, we focus on the operational requirements and limitations in the new sUAS rule.   Farmers who want to use a drone in the farm operation need to understand and comply with these provisions.

Pre-flight requirements

    • Registration. A person may not operate a sUAS over 0.55 pounds unless it is registered with FAA. An online registration is available at https://registermyuas.faa.gov/
    • Pre-flight inspection. The Remote PIC must inspect the sUAS prior to a flight to ensure that it is in a condition for safe operation, which includes inspecting for equipment damage or malfunctions. The FAA advises operators to conduct the pre-flight inspection in accordance with the sUAS manufacturer’s inspection procedures and provides a list of the elements to address in a pre-flight inspection in section 7.3.4 of this guideline.
    • Preflight information. The Remote PIC must make sure that all persons directly involved in the flight are informed about roles and responsibilities, operating conditions, emergency and contingency procedures and potential hazards.
    • Flight operators. Only a Remote PIC may fly the sUAS, or someone under the direct supervision of a Remote PIC if the PIC is easily able to gain control of the sUAS. A Remote PIC may only operate or observe one drone at a time.
    • Airspace. Flights of sUAS are allowed in Class G airspace, the airspace that is not controlled by Air Traffic Control (ATC) communications, which encompasses a majority of agricultural lands. A flight in Class, B, C, D and E controlled airspace requires permission from the appropriate ATC prior to flight. The FAA will establish a web portal that will allow an operator to apply for ATC permission online.
  • Waiver process. The operator may apply for a “certificate of waiver” that allows deviation from some of the operational requirements if the FAA determines that the flight would be safe. The operator must receive the waiver prior to the flight, so should file the request about 90 days in advance of the proposed flight.   The FAA will post the waiver applications, which are not yet available, at http://www.faa.gov/uas/.

 

Operating rules during flight:

  • Weather visibility. There must be a minimum visibility of three miles from the sUAS control station.
  • Visual line of sight. The Remote PIC or the authorized person operating the drone must maintain a constant visual line of sight with the sUAS, without the aid of a device other than glasses or contact lenses.  The operator may use a visual observer to help maintain the line of sight, but using an observer cannot extend the line of sight.
  • See and avoid. The operator must yield the right of way and avoid collision with another use of the national air space.
  • Height. The sUAS may not fly more than 400 feet above ground level.
  • Time of day. Flights may occur only during daylight hours or no more than 30 minutes before official sunrise or after official sunset if the sUAS has anti-collision lighting.
  • Speed. The sUAS speed may not exceed 100 miles per hour.
  • People. A flight may not occur over persons who are not involved in the flight or are not under a covered structure or inside a covered stationary vehicle.
  • Base of operation. Operation of the sUAs may not occur from a moving aircraft. Operation from a moving land or water vehicle is permissible if in a sparsely populated area and not transporting property for hire.
  • External load and towing. A sUAS may carry or tow an external load if the load is securely attached, does not affect control of the aircraft, is not a hazardous substance and the combined weight of the sUAS and its load does not exceed the 55 pound weight limit.
  • Aerial applications. Use of a sUAS for dispensing herbicides, pesticides and similar substances must also comply with the “agricultural aircraft operation” regulations in 14 CFR 137.3.
  • Dropping objects.   An operator may not create an undue hazard that poses a risk of injury to persons or property when dropping an object from a sUAS.
  • Careless or reckless operation. A person must not operate a sUAS carelessly or recklessly. The FAA provides the example of failing to consider weather conditions when flying near structures, trees or rolling terrain in a densely populated area as an example of careless or reckless operation.

After-flight requirements

  • Production of records and vehicle. If requested by FAA, a person must make the sUAS or its records available for testing or inspection.
  • Accident reporting. Within 10 days of occurrence, a Remote PIC must report to the FAA a flight operation that results in loss of consciousness or serious injury to a person or creates property damage of at least $500. Reporting can occur online at www.faa.gov/uas or by telephone to the appropriate FAA field office or regional center.

Penalties for noncompliance with the rule

The FAA will have enforcement authority over the new regulations. Depending upon the type and violation, civil penalties could be up to $27,500.  An operator could also be subject to criminal penalties for violations that are reckless, destroy property or threaten public safety; those penalties could be up to $250,000.

Learn more about the sUAS rule at http://www.faa.gov/uas/

What the New Drone Rule Means for Agriculture

By: Peggy Hall, Assistant Professor and Field Specialist, Agricultural & Resource Law

Part 1: Operators Must Obtain FAA Certification

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) yesterday filed its final rule in the Federal Register for the Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS).  The new rule allows for the non-recreational operation of sUAS less than 55 pounds in the national airspace.  Farmers and professionals planning to use UAS or “drones” for agricultural purposes must comply with the rule beginning on August 29, 2016.  An important first step toward compliance is to obtain the proper license to operate a sUAS, referred to as “remote pilot certification” by the FAA.  To read more click on What the new Drone rule means for Agriculture

New Law Increases Access to Small Claims Court

By: Peggy Hall, Assistant Professor and Field Specialist, Agricultural & Resource Law

The Ohio General Assembly has enacted a law that raises the monetary limit for cases handled through Ohio’s small claims court system.  The new maximum amount of $6,000 for a small claims case will replace the current limit of $3,000 when House Bill 387 becomes effective in late September.  Under the new law, a defendant in the case may also file a counterclaim for up to $6,000.  Governor Kasich signed the bill on June 28, 2016.

Ohio law requires every county and municipal court in Ohio to establish a small claims division to handle minor disputes involving only the recovery of money.  A small claims court cannot hear cases for slander, libel, malicious prosecution, abuse of process, return of personal property, punitive damages or other cases seeking remedies other than money.  A person may file a small claims complaint and present the case in court without the assistance of an attorney, but may have legal representation if desired.   The court may appoint a magistrate, who must be an attorney, to oversee the case and render a decision.   The court also has the authority to enforce a monetary judgment against a party.  Because small claims cases tend to be simple, they are resolved in less time and with less expense than cases heard by other courts.

The increased monetary limit for small claims cases will allow farmers and agribusinesses to address more disputes quickly and without the expense of an attorney.  Operators and landowners owed money for products or services in excess of the current $3,000 small claims maximum often express frustration that it could be too costly and time consuming to address the matter through municipal or county courts.  The new higher limit of $6,000 should capture many of these cases and offer an opportunity to recover such losses through the small claims process.  According to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Lou Terhar (R-Cincinnati), the change will “bring Ohio in line with surrounding states and make Ohio a better place to do business and generate jobs.”

To learn more about using the Ohio small claims court process, visit this webpage.  House Bill 387 is available here, and Ohio’s laws on small claims courts are  here.

 

Ohio Legislature Passes Agritourism Legislation

By: Peggy Hall, Assistant Professor and Field Specialist, Agricultural & Resource Law

An agritourism bill first introduced over a year ago has finally received approval from the Ohio General Assembly.   The Senate passed SB 75 last November, but the bill did not pass the House of Representatives until May 4, 2016.  The House had passed a similar bill last May, but the Senate failed to act on that bill.  If signed by Governor Kasich, SB 75 will be in effect in time for the fall agritourism season.

The legislation addresses civil liability risk, property taxation and local zoning authority for “farms” that provide “agritourism” activities. It’s important to understand several definitions in the law.  To read more click on Ohio Legislature Passes Agritourism Legislation

Ohio Creates New Farm Winery Liquor Permit

By: Peggy Hall, Assistant Professor and Field Specialist, Agricultural & Resource Law

Governor Kasich has signed legislation to create a new “Ohio Farm Winery Liquor Permit.” While wine makers in Ohio may currently obtain a general liquor permit to make and sell wine on a farm, the general permit does not distinguish the source of the wine. The new Ohio Farm Winery Permit legally designates the wine as being made from grapes grown on the wine maker’s farm.  Sponsors and supporters of the legislation claim that the special designation will help consumers know a wine’s localized nature, bring recognition to Ohio’s wine growing regions, keep Ohio competitive with other states that designate farm-produced wines, and ensure that farm wineries continue to receive property tax treatment as agricultural operations.

Ohio’s Division of Liquor Control may issue an Ohio Farm Winery Permit only to wine makers who meet two requirements: the manufacturer produces wine from grapes, fruit or other agricultural products grown on the manufacturer’s property, and the property qualifies as “land devoted exclusively to agricultural use” under Ohio’s Current Agricultural Use Valuation (CAUV) program, which requires that the land be used for commercial agricultural production and be at least 10 acres in size or, if less than 10 acres, generates a minimum average of $2500 in gross income.

Under the new law, an Ohio Farm Winery Permit holder may sell its wine products for consumption on the premises where manufactured, for consumption off the premises in sealed containers, or to a wholesale permit holder. An Ohio Farm Winery Permit holder may also manufacture, purchase and import brandy for fortifying wine and may import and purchase wine for blending purposes, but the total amount of wine used for blending cannot exceed 40% of all wine manufactured by the wine maker.

H.B. 342, which will be effective in late September, is available here.

Congress Finalizes Mandatory GMO Labeling Law

By: Peggy Hall, Assistant Professor and Field Specialist, Agricultural & Resource Law

After several years of debate over voluntary versus mandatory GMO (genetically modified organism) labeling, Congress passed legislation yesterday to create a unified national standard requiring disclosure of information for bioengineered foods.  Predictions are that President Obama will sign the legislation soon.  Once effective, the new law will preempt state laws that require labeling of foods containing GMOs, such as the Vermont labeling law that recently became effective on July 1.  The bill’s passage through Congress represented a bi-partisan compromise led by senators Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).  “This is the most important food and agriculture policy debate of the last 20 years,” said Sen. Roberts.  To read the entire article click  GMO labeling law

ARC County Looking Forward: Making County of Payment Choice for 2016-2018

By: Chris Bruynis, OSU Extension Educator, Ross County

Farmers with the administration of their farms consolidated at one FSA office may want to examine their ARC-CO projected payments for 2016 – 2018. If no decision to change is made, ARC-CO payments will be calculated on the average yields for the administrative FSA office county, regardless of where the land is physically located. Earlier in the year, FSA announced that farmers could elect to have the 2014 and/or the 2015 ARC-CO payments calculated on the county in which the land is physically located.  For some farms this was financially beneficial. However, do not expect 2016 to be like previous years since the high yields that reduced payments in a few locations (Defiance County 2014, and Ross County 2015) are now included in the formula to determine the payment. To read the full article go to Farm Program Payments Revisited July 2016