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Editorial: Government Should Embrace Drone Technology

Supporters explain how unmanned aerial vehicles can provide meaningful guidance to private interests, and the need for government to take advantage of the technology before competitors in other countries move full-speed ahead.

by St. Joseph News-Press, McClatchy News Service / September 3, 2014

For a second year in a row, farmers in the Midland Empire have been tantalized with an expert’s view of the alluring possibilities posed by drone technology.

And for a second time, these participants at the annual Graves-Chapple Field Day in Atchison County, Mo., have been told legal use of drones remains beyond their reach.

This matter is in the hands of the Federal Aviation Administration, which observers think will miss a Sept. 15 target for writing rules for drones. We’re not sure of the reasons for the delay, but we’re pretty sure of the consequences.

The longer our government takes to vet the use of drones and to provide meaningful guidance to private interests — with agriculture near the top of that list — then the greater risk we’ll miss out on realizing the full potential of this new technology.

Competitors in other countries no doubt will move full-speed ahead during this uncertain time.

The manufacture of drones, along with the technological advancements that surely will come in second- and third-generation versions, largely will take place elsewhere. So will development of creative new uses fueled by placing these devices in the hands of eager innovators.

Further, there is reason to think that drones on the farm will be more than a diversion, but a genuine contributor to advances in productivity, lowering of labor costs and improvements in monitoring animal and plant health. But these positive developments will not come about until drones are approved for least limited, controlled uses such as in agricultural operations.

We have written before about the need to be cautious to protect privacy interests while considering appropriate uses for these small, unmanned aerial vehicles.

But caution must be paired with prudence in ensuring this technology is available for commercial applications sooner rather than later.

©2014 the St. Joseph News-Press (St. Joseph, Mo.)

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