FAA endorses AMA rules to govern personal use of sUAS for Precision Ag

November 25th… In an online news story by Oklahoma City Channel 9 News, FAA effectively endorsed AMA’s safety guidelines for the personal use of sUAS for agricultural applications. As reported by Justin Dougherty

“Farmers may operate an unmanned aircraft over their own property for personal use … Guidelines for the operation of model aircraft, such as those published by the Academy of Model Aeronautics, may be used by farmers as reference for safe model UAS operations.”

PL 112-95 enacted by Congress as part of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, provides that individuals operating small unmanned aircraft (model aircraft) for personal use may do so within the programming of a recognized community-based organization (AMA) and in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines.

OKC News Channel 9

Click the link below to read the Channel 9 report…

Oklahoma Farmers Use Drones To Monitor Crops, Cattle

Rich Hanson
AMA Government and Regulatory Affairs


  1. Nothing changed. It is a ban on a business making a profit that the FAA has a problem with. The FAA is anti-business, at least non-military large contractor business. The FAA won’t bother any individual on their own property. Now, if the farmer’s sUAS crashes, causes a fire, good luck on getting insurance to pay for it. There is no license granted for sUAS.

    The US FAA has driven technology development overseas, pure and simple. It is probably time to break up the FAA and abolish many of its parts.

    Had President Carter not let Mark Fowler, head of FCC allow cell phones, digital information transmission, and encrypted TV signals …. the US would have lost literally Trillions of dollars to overseas developers. President Carter and Mark Fowler were both engineers. Unlike today, they understood that needless, mindless control thwarts growth, safety, and innovation. The FAA is hurting job growth in the US for the long term.

    1. This is a difficult and generally misunderstood issue…

      FAA’s notice in the Federal Register in 2007 was not a reflection of the government’s view of commercial UAS operations, but rather a clarification of the authority and application of the “Model Aircraft Operating Standards” provided in AC 91-57.

      FAA’s primary and arguably sole concern is the safety of the National Airspace System (NAS). The 2007 FRN was intended to establish a safety framework around existing UAS operations while developing new regulations aimed at enabling the safe operation of all small UAS in the national airspace.

      Unfortunately, this approach combined with the inordinate amount of time it’s taking to develop the new rules has effectively stifled a new industry poised to inject 10’s of billions of dollars into the domestic US economy. And, arguably has allowed overseas manufactures to get a competitive advantage on the US industry.

      FAA’s acknowledgement that the agricultural use of sUAS can be effectively and safely managed within the safety programming of a community-based organization (AMA) is very much a change and a huge step forward for one of the largest segments of the UAS market.

      BTW… AMA’s member liability insurance does cover the personal use of small UAS. A farmer who happens to be an AMA member would have AMA provided liability insurance to cover the loses you described. Keep in mind that AMA members are required to operate within AMA’s Safety Program and must abide by the AMA Safety Code as a condition of membership.

      Rich Hanson
      AMA Government and Regulatory Affairs

    2. As soon as money starts changing hands as in a commercial aviation operation, operators including pilots make very bad decisions. I’ve seen this firsthand with 24 years as an air traffic controller. The FAA requires a higher level of skill with commercial ops and regulates thusly.

  2. Does the AMA’s member liability cover a professional member of the AMA going out to that farmer’s field and doing the inspection for him since he /she is a farmer and not a UAV operator?

    I agree with Silver. The FAA is hindering business and economic growth in our Country. No two ways to dance around that one.

    1. Eddie, Though AMA’s insurance program does provide liability coverage for the personal use of UAS operated under AMA’s Safety Program, it does not as yet cover the professional/commercial operation of UAS, i.e. direct compensation for flying the UAS. However, AMA is working with the insurance industry in developing this coverage and should have an insurance package available for the ‘Lite Commercial’ operator in the near future.

      Rich Hanson
      AMA Government and Regulatory Affairs

  3. Rich why do other countries support the commercial use of uavs? The U.S. is at the bottom of the list. Again I think the one poster hit the nail on the head with regards to business making a buck doing this. The AMA would have nothing to do with this as the AMA is a hobby community and the only money the AMA makes is within its membership. Now I am a member of the AMA and probably will continue to do so. Furthermore, this administration has given mixed signals from day one so who knows whats going to happen. I believe there should be laws regulating the use of some guy going out and flying into a certain air space. Also a person running a business using a uav should have some sort of regulations and certifications for a specific type of craft he/she flys. So really all said and done with regard to FPV/uav use within a hobby category the AMA certainly is doing well. But as far as any business use of these things the AMA really had no quorum on the subject unless they want to change the whole scope of the Remote Control Hobby.

    1. John, It’s really hard to say exactly why it’s taking the FAA so long to develop rules to enable the commercial operation of ‘small’ UAS in the United States. As it stands right now, they say they will have a proposed rule out for public comment in early 2014 with a target implementation date of September 2015. However, this process has slipped so badly in the past, that remains to be seen.

      That having been said, an argument can be made that there is nothing preventing the amateur, personal-use and ‘lite commercial’ operation of UAS today. AMA is currently working on and will be announcing a community-based safety program for these operations in the near future.

      Rich Hanson
      AMA Government and Regulatory Affairs

  4. Part of the reason we will/are behind is due to our politicians selling us out to cheap labor. I don’t mean high wage union labor just labor in general, I would think there are a lot of Americans willing to take these types of manufacturing jobs rather than be unemployed.

    1. You are exactly right Ellis. So instead of the United States leading the world into the future and being the leader of technology as we have always been, … the administration would prefer to poke and prod American labor to demand an increase in wages to flip hamburgers.

  5. It is encouraging that the FAA has officially made the connection between the AMA and the “Community based Organization” called out in the bill passed by Congress. But I have to agree that there has really been no movement of the FAA, based on the news article, toward developing commercial use of any unmanned aircraft in the UAS.
    I have submitted a response to the MA article concerning “FPV Friend or Foe?” to Jay Smith and Bob Brown. Basically I am opposed to FPV flight on the basis of their threat to security. Consider their application in the hands of a terrorist. I just sayn’…

    1. Frank, I understand and to an extent share your concern regarding the potential misuse of this technology. However, that can be said about almost any new technology. The hundreds of millions of cell phones in the hands of individuals today can be used for their intended purpose or they can be used as remotely operated detonators for IEDs placed anywhere in the world. Similar concerns were raised when proportional radio control systems were introduced 50 years ago.

      As a member of the military in the 1970’s, I personally piloted a remotely controlled aerial device and exploded it into a target over a mile away using nothing but the naked eye and a joy stick. This technology was the forerunner of today’s Hellfire missiles and smart bombs. The ability to remotely pilot an explosive device and cause major destruction has been around for decades. It’s not the technology that is of concern but rather the intent of the individual using it. Though I pray this never happens, FPV technology could be used in a similar fashion, but I’m confident this intent will not come from within the aeromodeling community and certainly not from within the AMA.

      AMA has always supported new technologies as part of our core value of supporting aeronautical and scientific development. The Academy has always found ways of safely and responsibly integrate new technologies into the modeling activity and the aeromodeling community, and AMA is committed to doing so for FPV as well.

      Rich Hanson
      AMA Government and Regulatory Affairs

  6. Companies like AgEagle of Neodesha, KS will help put agricultural robotic aircraft systems into the hands of farmers. The early adaptor farmers will demonstrate the many benefits of aerial images of the crops through natural light, NDVI and enhanced NDVI. Companies like AgEagle will begin delivering dozens of systems this growing season. After these farmers demonstrate the positive impact of reduced input costs and increased yields and safe operation, the momentum will be difficult to control from migrating into commercial applications.

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