Until the Federal Aviation Administration finalizes rules for the use of unmanned aircraft systems, farmers, ranchers and others engaged in agriculture can learn about the current and future status of the use of drones in agriculture during an upcoming webinar, said an agricultural law expert with the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.

One of the biggest concerns in agriculture right now is how and in what instances drones can be legally used, said Peggy Hall, Ohio State University Extension’s agricultural and resource law field specialist. OSU Extension is the college’s outreach arm.

“A question that I’m often asked is, ‘I have a drone now, but can I use it legally?’" said Hall, who is also an assistant professor for OSU Extension. “The answer depends on the specific situation."

“If you operate a drone for commercial use but don’t have the proper authorization from the FAA, that is illegal. But if you use a drone just as a hobby, it’s OK.”

To help those in agriculture address these issues, Hall will take part in a free webinar to provide information on legal drone usage. The hour-long webinar, “Small Unmanned Aerial Systems in Agriculture: Preparing for the Legal Issues,” is at noon on June 30.

The webinar will feature a presentation by Hall, who has expertise in this area of agricultural law, and Rusty Rumley, a senior staff attorney with the National Agricultural Law Center.

The webinar will include information on:

  • The current rules and conditions for operating drones.
  • The range of proposed and enacted state laws across the country dealing with concerns around privacy, nuisance and trespass.
  • The FAA proposed federal regulations for small commercial drones.

“The FAA closed the comment period April 24 on a rule it has proposed for the use of small unmanned aircraft systems,” Hall said. “The rule, which is now under review, received nearly 5,000 comments.

“There likely won’t be a final rule for small unmanned aerial systems until next year.”

Instructions for signing into the webinar are at nationalaglawcenter.org/consortium/uavwebinar. The webinar will also be archived on the site after the presentation.

The webinar is hosted by the Agricultural and Food Law Consortium, which works to research regional and national agricultural law issues, Hall said. The consortium is part of and led by the National Agricultural Law Center, which is a unit of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture in Fayetteville, Ark. Ohio State is one of four universities to partner in the consortium.

The consortium is a formal collaboration to address agricultural law issues that impact food, fiber and energy production, Hall said. As part of the consortium, OSU Extension conducts legal research, writes articles and produces outreach material, she said.

The National Agricultural Law Center covers more than 50 areas of agricultural and food law including biotechnology, the farm bill, states’ right-to-farm laws, environmental law and animal well-being issues.