A photo taken from a drone owned by Alan Castell, of Alpha Drones, during harvest. Castell believes drones will become commonplace in the agricultural industry in the near future.
Farmers looking to use drones to check crops or livestock will have to jump through a few hoops before takeoff.
Alan Castell, of Alpha Drones, said producers will be required to get approval from Transport Canada when flying a drone for commercial purposes. The only time a drone can be flown without approval is when it is being used for recreational use.
"Once you are a millimetre above ground, it’s not yours — it’s airspace," Castell said. "A lot of people think because it’s their land they can do what they want, but there is a minimum requirement such as insurance."
According to the country’s transportation regulator, "it is Transport Canada policy that UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) operating in Canada must meet equivalent levels of safety as manned aircraft. Requirements for the operation of a UAV fall under the Canadian Aviation Regulations."
While in most cases a special flight operations certificate will have to be issued every time the drone is flown commercially, Castell said he has spoken to one producer who was granted a licence that allows him to check his crop and livestock as many times as he wishes until the end of October.
Castell expects drones to become commonplace in many industries, such as mining and forestry, in the future, and sees a real opportunity in the agricultural sector right now.
Not only will the technology be used by producers, but by crop inspectors, who will be able to check damaged crops without potentially tracking through undamaged acres.
The most common drone is selling for approximately $1,400. It comes with a built-in camera that has three-axis stabilization and can shoot photos or high-definition video. The battery lasts between 20-25 minutes and it is GPS locked, meaning it will hover in one spot if the joystick isn’t touched.
It also has software that links to a phone or tablet that can show you what the drone is seeing in real time, Castell said.
The GPS also ensures they don’t fly too close to an airport, as the unit will force land itself if it is within a certain distance of any terminal.
While the licences will be a bit of a hassel, Castell said it’s about keeping the industry safe.
"You don’t want to be in a passenger jet and see a drone go by," he said.
» Twitter: @CharlesTweed
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 22, 2014