Yuma applies for new FAA program to use drones in Agriculture

Yuma applies for new FAA program to use drones in agriculture
YUMA, Ariz. - On Thursday several partners in Yuma applied for the Federal Aviation Association's pilot program called the FAA Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program. 
This program would allow drones to potentially be used to help aid in agriculture and border patrol efforts.
Rosa Bevington with the Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture (YCEDA) has been working as their drone operator for four years.
"I think utilizing this new technology will help with a lot of different aspects," she told News 11.
Currently, the FAA has placed limitations on commercial drone use in agriculture. If approved for this new pilot program there will be less limitations and room for more research and innovations in the Ag business.
"Sometimes people are scouting for bugs or they are in the field looking for different things and diseases and when we figure out how to do the research with the drones we can do those things a lot more quickly and save a lot more time," Bevington shared.
Paul Brierley, who leads the YCEDA shared how the government has been on a tight timeline for this program. They were only given 90 days to complete the application.
"President Trump ordered the FAA to develop a pilot program where different airspaces throughout the country would test out different kinds of operations that aren't a loud right now so we can figure out how to safely integrate these drones," he said.
"The main things this would allow that we aren't allowed to do now is fly beyond visual line of sight, fly at night, fly over people and fly in controlled air spaces," he added.
Brierley believes drones in agriculture could become a billion dollar industry. Drones could really affect the way we do things in agriculture.
 "With agriculture, maybe flying at night, we may want to find pathogens, which is a food safety issue like E Coli on the field by having them fluoress and flying them at night with black lights to see if there are any pathogens out there, we need to do that at night and that's not aloud right now," he said.
The FAA controls all of the airspace across the country and they regulate drone use.
"Arizona as a whole has submitted an application to be one of the five test sites for this pilot program," Brierley mentioned.
Yuma is one of the spaces in Arizona to apply for this program. The partners in Yuma which worked on this application were RDO, John Deer, YPD, Border Patrol, AWC and Yuma International Airport.
"By being on the forefront of showing safe ways to do those things people will develop new applications and new ways to do those things and the technology is right here in Yuma right here in Arizona and that will lead the nation on this innovation," Brierley stated.
Yuma sent their application in on January 4 and will hear if they have been accepted in May 2018.

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