At times, it seems as if experts have been predicting “big things” for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for several years now. However, there is now evidence “big things” are indeed starting to happen in this fledging technology segment.
A few weeks ago, Michael Huerta, an Administrator at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said that the agency currently has more than 770,000 registrations to fly UAVs on file. The FAA required all interested UAV users to file such registrations beginning in December 2015, and the numbers have grown significantly since then.
In fact, just since the first of the year, the FAA has received more than 100,000 UAV registration requests, which averages out to just over 1,000 per day. “We’re ushering in a new age of American aviation, the unmanned aircraft era,” said Huerta, speaking at the Consumer Electronics Show in late March. “And it’s moving at a quicker pace than anything we’ve seen before.” Within the next four years, predicts the agency, the number of UAVs flying in the skies above America could top 3 million.
Of course, many in the agricultural community have long been intrigued by UAVs and their potential to aid growers and ag retailers in their work. At last count, several dozen companies within the marketplace were working with these units to determine their abilities. How many of UAVs end up working in agriculture is still a matter for debate, but the FAA has already issued more than 37,000 “remote pilot” certificates, which allow users to fly UAVs for commercial purposes under specific conditions.
So we can all probably expect the skies above many of the nation’s crop fields to become more “UAV-laden” as the 2017 growing season moves forward . . .