During 2015, drones entered a transition phase from specialist hobby to an item that can today be purchased with relative ease. This transformation has resulted in the use of drone technology becoming much more apparent and widespread in the countryside due to legislation preventing their use in urban areas.
Drones do offer the user the opportunity to explore the countryside in a relatively unique capacity however, as the concept of drone technology is still a relatively new idea at present; there is little legislation in place to govern their use in rural areas.
Any drone user is reminded of the need to be mindful and considerate towards livestock and rural dwellers and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) recommends that unmanned aircraft should not be flown within 50 metres of a person, animal, vehicle or structure.
At all times drones should be flown in open areas and within the user’s line of vision.
West Yorkshire Police have attributed the death of one of their police horses to a drone. CCTV footage confirmed that 14 year old Fimber bolted the fence of his paddock and collided with a wooden post after the drone appeared to spook the horse. In England the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) is calling upon the government to work with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and representatives of the drone industry to draw up tougher new regulations.
Online retail giant Amazon is at present considering rolling out the idea of using drone technology to deliver parcels right across the United Kingdom after two parcels were successfully delivered by drone in the Cambridge area. This has spurred the need for a study into the effects of drone technology on livestock to be carried out with the study’s findings confirming ideas that drones can cause significant stress to animals. If Amazon chose to use drone technology to deliver parcels environmentalists have warned that birds and wildlife could be disturbed.
The potential benefits to farmers through the use of drone technology must not be forgotten from both an economic and environmental point of view such as their use during crop applications as well as the reduced levels of disruption from Utility companies. However, just, as with any new technology, there are always opportunities for misuse and although regulations governing the use of drones are required it is important that farmers do not find these regulations to be excessive and restrictive.
At present drones can be expensive to purchase but as technology advances and their use becomes more widespread their cost is expected to fall. It is difficult to predict the direction and pace of the drone industry and at present, with the industry, showing no signs of slowing down any new regulations will need to exhibit flexibility to adapt quickly to any future changes.
The UFU Legislation Committee would urge any drone user to adopt a responsible stance when in control of a drone and ensure the safety of people, livestock and property whilst ensuring they are familiar with existing legislation in order to ensure the drone is operated in line with the legislation.