Alabama Governor Robert Bentley last week charged the Alabama Drone Task Force to review the requirements to further Alabama’s use of drones in areas of agriculture, conservation and law enforcement.

“I believe drone use can benefit the state now and for generations to come, because drones offer many advantages to help our farmers and law enforcement agencies be successful,” Bentley said. “The task force will review Federal Aviation Administration requirements for drone use in Alabama and establish the necessary guidelines. We have assembled a strong group with extensive knowledge and experience to serve on the task force, and I look forward to their recommendations for a statewide plan.”

The task force includes Agriculture and Industries Commissioner John McMillian (who will chair it), Transportation Director John Cooper, Conservation and Natural Resources Commissioner Gunter Guy, Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Secretary Spencer Collier and Montgomery Airport Authority Board Member Jimmy Reynolds.

“So many constructive uses have emerged recently for drones in agriculture, forestry and other commercial enterprises,” McMillian said. “Now is the time for the State of Alabama to be proactive with ideas that enable this rapidly developing technology to be a positive innovation for the long-term.”

The task force is to:

  • Study the requirements for drone operations in Alabama, and the process for FAA approval.
  • Apply for necessary FAA waivers for drone use in Alabama airspace.
  • Meet with stakeholders to discuss plans for drone use.
  • Recommend a statewide plan for drone use in Alabama.

The first meeting of the Drone Task Force is scheduled for this week in Montgomery. The statewide drone management plan is due to the governor before January 15, 2015.

Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell praised the task force creation.

“Unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, have the potential to help farmers better manage crops and livestock,” Parnell said. “We appreciate the governor’s proactive efforts to explore how we can best use this technology while protecting private property rights.”

“The thing about a UAV is that it gives you a whole new perspective when we talk about agriculture,” said John Fulton, former Alabama Farmers Federation professor in the Department of Biosystems Engineering at Auburn University. “There’s a tremendous amount of opportunity to collect data or images, check cows or go out after a rain to see where water is standing.

In June, the Federal Aviation Administration effectively grounded drones for commercial use, placing a big pause in what promises to be a thriving technology in the private realm and as companies continue to develop unmanned aerial vehicles and services to go with them.