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Senior Contributor

Can Activist Groups Use Drones to Spy on Farmers?

A good article explaining what the PETA People can and can not do with drones to spy on farmers. The PETA People like to use the state of Iowa as a testing ground for there actions since Iowa raises alot of hogs in CAFO's. Personally, I have nothing to hide, so PETA's use of drones doesn't really bother me. It would be an absolute riot to try and shoot down one of there drones with my 12GA Shotgun. LOL Article is below:

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Can Activist Groups Use Drones to Spy on Farmers?

 

The short answer to this question is likely a qualified "yes." 

 

Unmanned aircraft’s use in warfare has been the subject of international debate for the past few years as our military increasingly relies on drones to target al-Qaeda and associated groups.  Libertarians and privacy activists have raised concerns over law enforcement’s use of drones domestically.  Now, some in agriculture are concerned that drones will be used by activists groups to harass farmers and ranchers.

It does not require a substantial logical leap to believe that activist groups may use drones to spy on animal operations in hopes of finding environmental violations.  Recently, PETA announced that it intends to deploy a fleet of drones to monitor hunters to spot poachers and wildlife violations.  Given the potential annoyance that activist drones could cause producers, I have received several inquiries as to whether farmers have any legal protections against drones snooping on their operation.

There is often a lag between new technologies and laws designed to address and regulate that technology.  For example, Congress is still struggling to address a broad array of issues related to internet commerce.  Drones are no exception.  Some states have adopted laws that limit or outlaw state and local police’s use of drones in law enforcement activities.  However, private use of drones is lightly regulated.  The small drones contemplated by PETA are considered model aircraft by the FAA.  According to FAA regulations, these drones are legal to operate so long as they are flown in the line of sight of the operator, fly lower than 400 feet, and avoid aircraft and flight patterns.

At this time, there are only two common legal protections in place to prevent harassment from drones: trespass and nuisance.  Trespass occurs when someone invades, or in the case of drones, causes something to invade property that a landowner exclusively controls.  Trespass is easy to prove when, for instance, your neighbor’s cows escape their fence and trample your crop.  Trespass is much harder to prove when it involves an invasion of airspace.  A low-flying drone could potentially result in a trespass; however the drone would have to interfere with airspace that the farmer actually controls – such as below a roofline.

Nuisance claims can also be filed against activists groups if drone activity leads to a "substantial and unreasonable interference" with the "quiet use and enjoyment" of your property.  Drones can be noisy, frighten livestock, and annoy landowners.  There is a possibility that a drone could be deemed a nuisance if there is proof of damages in the form of reduced agricultural production, decreased property value or the landowner’s stress from constant surveillance by overzealous activists. 

With limited options to regulate the private usage of drones, there may be calls for additional state laws designed to curb private usage of unmanned aircraft.   However, we in agriculture should be cautious about cutting off our nose to spite our face.  While activists may be able to add drones to their bag of tricks to harass agriculture, drones also present a great opportunity for farms and ranches.  Drones are already being used for crop monitoring, weed scouting, precision agriculture.  We are not far from the day when drones can be used to "ride fence" and assist in monitoring animal health.

It will be a while before we fully understand the role that drone technology will play in both agriculture and activist’s efforts against agriculture.  If they do play a substantial role, I imagine the law related to drones will evolve.  In the meantime, if you have a problem with activist drones monitoring your operation, you should consult your attorney for legal advice.

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Senior Advisor

Re: Can Activist Groups Use UAS to Spy on Farmers?

What is the source of this message?  It looks like a cut-and-paste of something someone wrote so I'd think a source would have to be cited to avoid copyright violation.

 

There is a good lawyer's article in Precision Ag about UAS and various laws.  It will clarify some of the misleading information in the article you copied.

 

The FAA controls right-of-passage through airspace.  The state will not have any say on that.  The FAA will never back down and the local sheriff will never be given any authority over airspace except that they may take action if a crime is being committed.  There is a recent case of a glider pilot in NC that illustrates this issue.  Granted, the locals don't like to hear and will ignore this if they can get by with it.

 

The state may have some say in privacy issues.  Note, however, that the FAA has already put a stake in the ground on the issue of privacy, as has the Congress, so it's hard to say at this stage in the game whether any lower governments will be allowed to impose their unique wishes.

 

Don't kid yourself - the FAA has a very strong idea of what is commerce and the idea that the UAS are toy remote control airplanes is often not so as far as the FAA is concerned.    It is illegal to operate a UAS for commerce without an FAA permit.  A farmer who takes pictures of his own crops and based on that makes management decisions is doing it as part of commerce.

 

There have been a couple of cases of activist groups using UAS; one on a dove hunt in North Carolina and one against a hog slaughter plant in Texas.  The UAS got shot down, not the doves, and the hog plant got fined.  A win on each side.

 

When it come to public opinion, it's hard to escape the idea that if PETA posts a damning video, people will not ask whether it was obtained legally.  Agriculture could win the battles and lose the war.

 

 

 

 

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Senior Advisor

Re: Can Activist Groups Use Drones to Spy on Farmers?

You should be safe RSW. You've probably need to get out of the house to become a target, and since you don't have a single farm responsibility I would imagine your in no danger. ROTFLMAO
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Senior Contributor

Re: Can Activist Groups Use Drones to Spy on Farmers?

Shaggy98- you know I Custom Farm my farmland. All the input buying and the selling of the crop doesn't just happen by magic you know. But yes, I have my entire farm operation set-up so well that with 4 weeks of training my wife could take over doing the job. That, my son is what is called good management.

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Senior Contributor

Re: Can Activist Groups Use UAS to Spy on Farmers?

The article is from another farm website. But please don't call the copyright police on me

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Senior Contributor

Re: Can Activist Groups Use Drones to Spy on Farmers?

ICF/RSW......smoking that wonder weed pretty early this morning !!!!

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Senior Contributor

Re: Can Activist Groups Use Drones to Spy on Farmers?

No, I tried that stuff once 30 years ago and it didn't do anything, I just prefer a nice cold beer on a hot day while mowing the yard. But no, a good farm manager has his job set-up so that with just a little training someone else can take it over and have an easy time doing it. That's the proper way to set-up your job duties in running a Custom Farming arrangement.

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Honored Advisor

Re: Can Activist Groups Use Drones to Spy on Farmers?

The question when dealing with pETA is not so much what they "can: do, but what they "will" do, to make their point.  They have a pretty steady track record of doing whatever they wish, to enrage public sentiments, then dealing with legal consequences, if any, later on. 

 

I would predict that there will be absolutely no regard from that quarter for the rights of any human: farmer, or not.  They will take any image to the public, without any concern for privacy.  It is almost impossible to place those sights into the context of a hunt or many accepted farming and ranching practices. 

 

What will happen to riparian rights to harvest game for a family's sustenance, just for starters?   Standard procedures like castrating calves and dehorning will look like misery, even though they are necessary and done as humanely as possible.  Expect a lot of work formerly done outdoors to move inside the barn....

 

We deal with the interface of non-farming people and farming pretty regularly.  Example:  A month or so ago, we got a call from the realtor who fills Mike's rental house on his farm in VA.  The cattleman who rents teh grazing has 50-60 brood cows, many wiht calves.  The tenant in one of the houses wants to report a dead cow, and that it was "screaming in pain before it died." 

 

Mike called the cattleman, who had just checked his animals within the hour, but he drives the 12 miles or so back out, to find nothing wrong. We surmise that a cow had bawled for her calf, and one of them later was laid out sunning.  Almost all are black cows, so we are pretty sure they cannot be told apart by someone stupid enough to think a cow only lays down when it dies.  We now call that cow Lazarusette.

 

People who aren't among us are pretty generally against us, gang. 

 

Now that several states have, as I understand it,  made it criminal to take images from a farm without the consent fo its owner, by taking employment as a form of coinducting espionage, I think they had to find new tools and tactics.  It isn't a question of "if" they will do this...it is merely a matter of "when". 

 

Have a nice day....

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Senior Advisor

Re: Can Activist Groups Use Drones to Spy on Farmers?

Maybe they can spot what is causing the  ' fish kills  " that occur in the streams and rivers  - something that hasn't had 100% proof in the past so say the experts ---

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Honored Advisor

Re: Can Activist Groups Use Drones to Spy on Farmers?

Fish kills, from what my alphabet soup of environmental scientist friends tell me,are typically triggered most often by anoxic waters flushed out of swamps and other still waters by heavy rainfall. The fish simply smother in water without enough dissolved oxygen in it.

Natural causes...sorry to disappoint you.