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Harvest Public Media is a reporting collaboration focused on issues of food, fuel and field. Based at KCUR in Kansas City, Missouri, Harvest covers agriculture-related topics through a network of reporters and partner stations throughout the Midwest.

New Rules Could Put More Drones Into Farm Fields

AgriLife Today, flickr Creative Commons

It will soon be a lot easier to fly a drone if you’re a filmmaker, real estate developer - or a farmer. Harvest Public Media’s Luke Runyon has more.

Until now you needed to have a pilot’s license and go through a lengthy bureaucratic process to legally get a drone in the sky. Now, the Federal Aviation Administration has streamlined the process, and lowered the bar to use a drone to survey farm fields or real estate.

“Now we anticipate a lot more business coming in the United State because yes, it was very cumbersome for growers to fly drones in compliance with FAA regulations," says Jason Barton, with the Colorado-based drone company Agribotix. His company caters to agriculture.

Drones have the potential to revolutionize how farmers do their jobs, helping them to use pesticides and fertilizers more efficiently or keep an eye on plant health. The new FAA rules include a certification process for commercial drone pilots, and are set to take effect this August.

As KUNC’s reporter covering the Colorado River Basin, I dig into stories that show how water issues can both unite and divide communities throughout the Western U.S. I produce feature stories for KUNC and a network of public media stations in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, California and Nevada.