Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Confusion over drone rules leaves farmers facing fines

April 1, 2019 by  
Filed under News & Business

Farmers could face fines running into thousands of pounds because of confusion over the rules for commercial use of drones.

“As the potential for drones to be used for more tasks in modern agriculture increases, we are getting many enquiries from farmers about insurance and their legal position,” said Charlie Yorke, NFU Mutual farm technology specialist.

“It’s worrying that some farmers buying a drone don’t realise that there are laws which have to be observed when flying them. This includes specific insurance cover, and consideration when they are receiving money for flying their drone as a service to other farmers.”

NFU Mutual has worked with the Civil Aviation Authority, rural police forces, and specialist agricultural providers to produce new guidance to help farmers better understand the rules on drone use and provide insurance to meet farmers’ needs.

Avoiding penalties

Mr Yorke said: “As drones use becomes more common in farming it is increasingly important that operators know the laws on licensing, insurance and safe operation to avoid accidents and penalties for infringing regulations.”

A farmer surveying their own crops with a view to alter how they would manage the crops – either by spraying or cultivating – would be classed as a non-recreational flight rather than a commercial operation, said Mr Yorke.

“Insurance is required – to cover the third party liability risks – but a permission for commercial operations is not needed,” he explained.

But if the farmer charged his neighbour to survey his neighbour’s crops, then this would be classed as a commercial operation, This would mean that the relevant permission should be sought and commercial insurance obtained.

It has been illegal to fly a drone above 400ft or within 1km of an airport since last July. But the government recently announced plans to extend the exclusion zone to 5km – the so-called Air Traffic Zone around airports – with extensions beyond the end of each runway.

It follows travel chaos last Christmas when some 140,000 passengers saw their holiday plans thrown into turmoil following multiple reports that drones were being flown illegally in the vicinity of Gatwick on 19-21 December.

New legislation will give police officers the power to land drones, search premises and seize drones – including electronic data stored within the device – and will require users to produce proper documentation.

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