Farmers want sensible controls for drone use

Drones and other remotely piloted aircraft systems have the potential to become useful agricultural tools for farmers and the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand is looking for feedback on draft proposals for their use.
Drones and other remotely piloted aircraft systems have the potential to become useful agricultural tools for farmers and the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand is looking for feedback on draft proposals for their use.
The use of drones as an agricultural tool is likely to become more popular in the future but Federated Farmers (FFNZ) is concerned there is the potential for misuse around privacy and security.

The Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand (CAANZ) has released a draft paper looking at the regulation of remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS).

CAANZ communications manager Mike Richards said while the CAANZ already had controls in place it was aware the use of RPAS was growing.

''New Zealand is actually keeping pace and in some cases slightly ahead of a number of developed countries in the world with its response to RPAS use,'' Mr Richards said.

''We align with international conventions, which come through the International Civil Aviation Organisation [ICAO], and have a CAANZ representative on the committee that is developing oversight guidelines for its 190 member states.''

The draft document, ''Interim Approach to the Regulations of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems'', is available on the CAANZ's website and has been sent to key stakeholders for feedback.

FFNZ general manager policy and advocacy Mark Ross said the new technology was an exciting new area of technology for farmers but he was unaware of any working groups in place to discuss the issues surrounding RPAS use.

''Once the CAANZ get the initial feedback [on the draft proposals], they will go from there,'' Mr Ross said.

The authority is hoping to release a more formal document in early March.

In the FFNZ's submission it said drones ''have the potential to benefit the agricultural sector in a variety of ways [eg monitoring stock, herding stock, aerial spraying, video/photography for agricultural research etc] and, as with any new technology, along with the benefits RPAS promise, there is also potential for misuse''.

Key concerns for farmers were privacy and security. The submission said ''it is not clear what protection rural landowners have from illegitimate use of RPAS under current law''.

''There will be problems and conflict if individuals begin to conduct their own surveillance operations that risk landowner's privacy, security and their personal and property rights.''

FFNZ would like to see all areas of policy relating to RPAS developed simultaneously, and include agencies such as the Ministry of Justice and Privacy Commissioner, to work together to discuss the issues. This would mean the rules being developed by the CAANZ would not inadvertently ''authorise RPAS operators who intend to use their aircraft for illegitimate purposes''.

FFNZ also wants the definition of the difference between recreational and non-recreational RPAS to be clearer, and it supports the provision of a communications and education programme for best practice for users.

''Federated Farmers wants to ensure that any proposed controls around the use of RPAS will not hinder agricultural innovation and/or prevent RPAS from being utilised to their full potential on farm.''

'There is resistance in the agricultural sector to promising new or experimental technology if it comes with the additional compliance costs or overbearing requirements for safety and risk management.''

''It is particularly important that any controls developed are appropriate, do not unnecessarily burden users with significant compliance costs, and are the most cost-effective controls necessary to address the safety risks associated with RPAS use.''