Farming News - Farmers risk fines because of confusion on drone rules warns NFU Mutual

Farmers risk fines because of confusion on drone rules warns NFU Mutual

11 Mar 2019
Frontdesk / Finance

Farmers could face fines running into thousands of pounds because of confusion over the rules for commercial use of drones, warns leading rural insurer NFU Mutual.

The insurer is concerned that many farmers are not aware of the laws or regulations when flying their drones. 

To help farmers understand the rules on drone use and provide insurance to meet farmers’ needs, NFU Mutual has worked with the Civil Aviation Authority, rural police forces, and agricultural specialist providers such as DroneAG.

NFU Mutual has now produced guidance for farmers on drone use to help them understand the complex rules on drone use, together with insurance to cover drone use on farms.

“As the potential for drones to be used for more tasks in modern agriculture increases, we are getting many enquiries from farmers about insurance and their legal position,” said Charlie Yorke, NFU Mutual Farm Technology Specialist.

“Drone technology is developing fast and is already offering exciting possibilities - including precision application of crop treatments - and detailed surveying.

“It’s worrying that some farmers buying a drone don’t realise that there are laws which have to be observed when flying them.  This includes specific insurance cover, and consideration when they are receiving money for flying their drone as a service to other farmers.

“As the main insurer of agriculture in the UK we are working with the researchers and commercial organisations taking this technology forward so we can provide the right guidance and insurance solutions to our customers. 

“As drones use becomes more common in farming it is increasingly important that operators know the laws on licensing, insurance and safe operation to avoid accidents and penalties for infringing regulations.

“In the case of a farmer surveying his own crops with a view to alter how he would manage the crops, either by spraying or cultivating, this would not be classed as a commercial operation - it is classed as a non-recreational flight. Insurance is required - to cover the third party liability risks but a permission for commercial operations is not needed.

"However, if the farmer charged his neighbour to survey his neighbour’s crops, then this would be classed as a commercial operation and the relevant permission and commercial insurance is required."

“Drones have tremendous potential to help farmers revolutionise the way they work by carrying out field operations without damaging the land, and applying minute quantities of crop treatments exactly where they are needed,” said Jack Wrangham, Director at DroneAg.  

To find out more and listen to a podcast on drones visit NFU Mutual’s website nfumutual.co.uk/drone the podcast provides information for farmers who are keen to find out more about this exciting new technology and how it can be applied.

Harper Adams University is running a Drones for Farming Conference on Tuesday, April 9, supported by NFU Mutual. Attendees will be able to hear presentations on drone uses and talk drone technology with professionals from the Harper Adams University UAS Special Interest Group.  Find out more here: https://www.harper-adams.ac.uk/events/259/

NFU Mutual agricultural drone use guidance

  • The CAA’s Dronecode is available at www.dronesafe.uk:
     
  • Drones used for non-recreational purposes (e.g. farmer surveying his own land)  must be insured for third party liability in accordance with regulation EC 785/2004
  • Drones used entirely for non-commercial purposes may be insured under a home and contents policy - but it is essential to check the position with your insurer beforehand.
  • Drones used for commercial purposes require a specific permission to be issued by the CAA. Adequate insurance is a pre requisite for any CAA permission
     
  • Commercial use of a drone is defined in UK law as: ‘any flight by a small unmanned aircraft except a flight for public transport, or any operation of any other aircraft except an operation for public transport

(a) which is available to the public; or

(b) which, when not made available to be public -

(i) in the case of a flight by a small unmanned aircraft, is performed under a contract between an operator and a customer, where the latter has no control over the remote pilot; or

(ii) in any other case, is performed under a contract between an operator and a customer, where the latter has no control over the operator, in return for remuneration or other valuable consideration.

In the case of a farmer surveying his own crops with a view to alter how he would manage the crops either by spraying or cultivating, this would not be classed as a commercial operation (but it is non-recreational).  However, if the farmer charged his neighbour to survey his neighbour’s crops on his behalf, then this would be classed as a commercial operation.