Aerial spraying bill gains momentum in Salem

An industry-supported bill emerges after several measures die this session.

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After a story about a citizen losing her dog to indiscriminate aerial spraying went viral, the Oregon Legislature responded with an industry-supported bill.

The Statesman Journal reports:

House Bill 3549, sponsored by the House Rules Committee, has none of the provisions pushed by environmental groups. Those include notifying residents before spraying, establishing buffers around residential areas and non-fish bearing streams, and turning over spray records to a state agency.  But industry groups say it solves the real problem: bad actors not following rules that already are sufficient.

“It’s already illegal to have your spray go on somebody else’s property,” Scott Dahlman, of the agribusiness industry group Oregonians for Food and Shelter, told the Statesman Journal Editorial Board on Wednesday.

A hearing for the bill has yet to be set.

The summary of HB3549:

Requires State Forestry Department to collect and analyze information regarding sufficiency of existing legal requirements to protect certain areas in proximity to forestland from impacts due to application of pesticides by aircraft.

(SOURCE: Oregon Legislature)

The Federal Aviation Administration gave farmers approval to use a drone to spray crops Tuesday.

From the Associated Press:

The drone, called the RMAX, is a remotely piloted helicopter that weighs 207 pounds, said Steve Markofski, a spokesman for Yamaha Corp. U.S.A., which developed the aircraft. Smaller drones weighing a few pounds had already been approved for limited use to take pictures that help farmers identify unhealthy crops. The RMAX is the first time a drone big enough to carry a payload has been approved, Markofski said. The drone already has been used elsewhere, including by rice farmers in Japan. The FAA approved it for the U.S. on Friday.

“I certainly understand their cautious approach,” Markofski said. “It’s a daunting task given our airspace is complicated.”

The FAA also recently announced the release of a new app for recreational drone fliers. The app will inform hobbyists if they are in compliance with the rules at their location.

The app will be called B4UFLY.

In a written statement, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said: “We want to make sure hobbyists and modelers know where it is and isn’t okay to fly. While there are other apps that provide model aircraft enthusiast with various types of data, we believe B4UFLY has the most user-friendly interface and the most up-to-date information.”

According to the Portland Business Journal:

The app is set to be released this summer to 1,000 beta testers. The first release is for iOS devices, with an Android release soon following. The governing is developing the app with the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, Academy of Model Aeronautics, and the Small UAV Coalition.

If what this app aims to do sounds familiar, it should. On the commercial side of things, Portand-based Skyward IO is developing a platform that connects federal regulators, commercial operators and insurers. For commercial operators Skyward can provide a digital flight record and offer real-time information on regulations.

Skyward is one of several companies in Oregon aiming to profit from the emerging technology.