Be responsible for your drone

Using drones for farming

Drone photo of farmThe use of drones in agriculture is becoming increasingly common-place, providing an opportunity to gain an aerial view of the farm operation for crop monitoring, health assessments and soil and field analysis, amongst other applications.

Yet despite the clear benefits, there is still something of a grey area when considering the insurance implications of using unmanned aerial systems on your land. Here we tackle some of your concerns and queries relating to the use of drones as a business tool on your farm unit.

We are all hearing about the how drone technology will revolutionise agriculture, but is it too early for me join the band-wagon until insurers are clearer on the risks?

First and foremost, you will need to be make your insurer and broker aware that you are using a drone, and for what applications. Each individual insurer will take a slightly different stance, some may include it as part of a standard farm-policy on the proviso that it is being used on your own land, as a business tool. The use of drones does represent a civil aviation risk, and therefore it is possible that you will need to use a specialist insurer for commercial use. Our advice is to speak with your broker and on-farm adviser, ascertain the risks and balance that with the benefits. Insurance products will be available should you decide to proceed.

Are there any specific rules I should follow?

It is important to follow and be acquainted with the guidance supplied by the Civil Aviation Authority, you can read more at www.caa.co.uk/drones. You must be in possession of an operating permission from the CAA before you conduct any aerial work with your drone, and the CAA has established rules to provide a safe environment in which small drones can be flown without coming into conflict with manned aircraft, and without risk to other people or properties.

Is training available?

There are several recognised assessment organisations that can help you meet the requirements to obtain your permission from the CAA. A National Qualified Entity (NQE) will generally help you develop an operations manual and will offer advice on completing any additional paperwork. It is the NQE’s recommendation that will form the basis of the CAA granting a permission.

Do you have any tips for safe operation of a drone?

There are six key points that every drone operator should consider

  • You are responsible for each flight. Take time to understand the rules as you are legally responsible for every flight. Failure to comply could lead a criminal prosecution.
  • Keep your drone in sight at all times, and be aware of the height restrictions. Stay below 400 feet.
  • Keep your distance. It is illegal to fly your drone over a congested area. Never fly within 50 metres of a person, vehicle or building.
  • You are responsible for avoiding collisions. You should never fly a drone near an airport or close to aircraft. It is a criminal offence to endanger the safety of an aircraft in flight.
  • Learn to fly your drone. As well as guidance from the NQE, why not join a local flying club to help you learn new skills and keep within the law.
  • Consider rights of privacy. Think about what you do with any images you obtain as you may break privacy laws. Details are available from the Information Commissioner’s Office www.ico.org.uk

Our key advice is to be sensible. Consider weather conditions, most drones can’t be operated in rain or winds above 10-15 mph, and be aware of the environment in which you are working. And, of course, always ensure your insurer is fully aware of your planned use of a drone on your land.