What Can Brown Do for Ag Drones? A Lot.

Big commercial drone industry news dropped recently with FAA announcing approval of UPS’ last mile drone delivery business – UPS Flight Forward – for Beyond Visual Line Of Sight (BVLOS) medical supply delivery in North Carolina.


For those using drones in any commercial capacity, not to mention big acre farming, this is big news.

One, it stands to reason this can and eventually will go a long way toward normalizing Beyond Visual Line Of Sight (BVLOS) missions, the likes of which have long freaked out aviation and aerial application professionals who see drones as a legitimate safety threat to manned operations in the National Air Space (NAS).

Yes, since its passage in 2016 the agency has approved many Part 107 Waiver Requests for BVLOS missions. But some, heck, many find FAA’s Part 107 Waiver Process cumbersome and a burden to already time stressed commercial operators. And it makes planning long-term business a pain, as oftentimes waivers for certain operations can take as long as 90 days to come through. FAA has pledged to streamline approvals recently, and that will certainly go a long way towards helping 107s, but it stands to reason an entity doing BVLOS regularly doesn’t want to deal with that process on a regular basis.

And I’d argue that once they’ve demonstrated the proper amount of safety and airspace regulation compliance to satisfy FAA and get a BVLOS waiver, they no longer should have to.

That said, all things being equal, the ability to cover more ground per flight – which is exactly what BVLOS flight allows – could help make drones more of a viable management tool for larger, multi-site ag operations, or even the long-rumored-coming-to-a-farm-near-you independent ag drone service provider that needs to cover as much ground in a single day.

Secondly, UPS is the first commercial delivery entity authorized as a Standard Part 135 operation, the license of which explicitly states there is “no limits on size or scope of operation.” That language right there is huge for commercial operators in that UPS has clearly demonstrated to regulators a level of safety and spatial awareness in the NAS that no drone entity, not Alphabet or Amazon or anyone, had yet achieved.

Maybe such developments aren’t quite as unattainable as previously thought?

Buried at the bottom of this FAA page explaining Part 135 is the exciting news that FAA is also in the process of approving six more of these types of operations.

So, we’ll see a handful of commercial entities approved for similar operations in the NAS in the near future.

What’s that old saying? “A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats.”

Yeah, I’d say that fits here.


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Avatar for Bill Lavender Bill Lavender says:

Mr. Grassi;

Pardon me for asking, what are aerial application bureaucrats? The link takes one to a well-written editorial by Andrew Moore, Executive Director of the National Agricultural Aviation Association. That should not title him the negative connotation of an “aerial application bureaucrat”. I believe your word choice was poor. -Regards

Avatar for Andrew Moore Andrew Moore says:

Matt, just out of curiosity, what did you mean by aviation and aerial application bureaucrats? You linked to my recent letter to CropLife after using the term. Were you referring to FAA or me? Typically a bureaucrat is synonymous to a civil or public servant. The term also has a negative connotation of one who might tend to get mired down in red tape. I like to think I work to shred red tape for our nation’s aerial applicators so they can work in a safe environment that is free of unnecessary and burdensome regulations. I’m afraid that if you meant it derogatorily you have cursed your beloved Cleveland Browns, Cavaliers and Indians to a long future of losing seasons. 🙂
–Andrew Moore, Executive Director, National Agricultural Aviation Association–

Avatar for Niels Andrews Niels Andrews says:

Where people tend to get lost on all autonomous vehicles is liability. The lawyers will determine the future of drones or any other autonomous vehicle. All of these vehicles have one thing in common: the ability to cause property damage, great bodily harm or even death.
We live in a society that outlaws straws because a turtle got a straw in his nose. Do you really think they will allow poison spraying machines to roam the Countryside spraying poison? And who do you think would insure such an event? Drone use beyond direct human control are a long way in the future. Currently society is consumed with deciding which bathroom to use.