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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Range Management Research

Title: Impact of flight regulations on effective use of unmanned aircraft systems for natural resources applications

item Rango, Albert - Al
item Laliberte, Andrea

Submitted to: Journal of Applied Remote Sensing (JARS)
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/2/2010
Publication Date: 8/31/2010
Publication URL:
Citation: Rango, A., Laliberte, A. 2010. Impact of flight regulations on effective use of unmanned aircraft systems for natural resources pplications. Journal of Applied Remote Sensing (JARS). 4:043539.

Interpretive Summary: Advances are being made using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for rangeland assessment, monitoring, and management as well as for other natural resources issues. However, in order to use UAVs for these problems, FAA regulations must be followed to fly safely in the National Airspace System (NAS) along with manned aircraft and other UAVs. The FAA regulations slow down research progress because the regulations are under development and UAVs must abide by line of sight control which results in many times wasting steps to keep the UAV visible to the pilot on the ground at all times. This paper lays out what steps are necessary to apply for permission to fly, how the flights are required to take place, and what the long term benefits are: development of a UAV team that is equipped to fly anywhere in the U.S.; contribution to the safe integration of UAVs into the NAS; and the ability to acquire high resolution data over rangelands unavailable in any other way. Potential users of this information are government UAV scientists, and NRCS and BLM land use specialists.

Technical Abstract: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have great potential for rangeland assessment, monitoring, and management as has been shown by prior studies. Additionally, numerous other applications in natural resources have shown the value of using UAVs. In order to have UAVs become a dependable tool for public land management agencies in carrying out their government-mandated responsibilities, it is necessary to integrate UAVs into the National Airspace System (NAS). To achieve this, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations have to be followed to assure public safety. UAV operators need to know that the safety regulations which incorporate line of sight restrictions will slow progress towards an operational system and plan accordingly for the extra time necessary to prepare and complete flight missions. In the long term by following approved safety procedures, you will develop a UAV flight team that is capable of accomplishing missions anywhere in the United States and contribute to a totally integrated NAS comprised of manned and unmanned aircraft systems that can be used jointly for natural resources management. At the same time, it is hoped that FAA regulations will change with time based on the locale in which operations take place, especially when they include large, remote, sparsely populated areas, and based on the capabilities and experience of the UAV flight team being used.

Last Modified: 06/27/2017
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