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November 2018

Increased Drone Use Brings Benefits, Concerns

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By Ronnie Miles, Director of Advocacy, NGCOA 

The use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) or drones continues rapid growth for recreation and business applications. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is projecting 7 million drones flying over U.S. skies by 2020.

We have all read about Amazon and the proposed use of drones as part of their delivery services. Golf courses are now learning from the agriculture industry how drones can help with course management. Using some of the latest thermal imaging technology, drones now enable superintendents to reduce water usage, by limiting it to stressed areas. This works for the application of fertilizers and herbicides as well. Using drones, golf courses will be able to identify specific areas requiring weed control thus reducing excessive spraying.

The catering industry also is finding drones useful. Golf courses provide some of the most attractive outdoor venues for weddings and other special events. Planners now are offering guests video productions of their events using drones.

While useful for business, drones also have become one of the newest domestic security risks facing our country. As these “flying cameras” become more commonplace, so is their misuse and abuse. For instance, during recent disaster relief efforts on the West Coast, helicopters assisting in a relief effort were forced to abort their mission to avoid a collision with a civilian UAS being flown in the area.

Safety should be our top priority, and since golf courses host tournaments that attract large audiences, managing the airspace around these events is critical.

So, what can we do to ensure both the UAS industry and golf course owners are protected? Clearly there is a need for regulation to ensure public safety without hindering industry growth.

NGCOA, along with other golf industry members, have joined DroneSafeCommunities.org, a not-for-profit that connects business and community organizations with Congress to develop federal legislation that provides clear guidance for the recreational hobbyist, business marketing companies and law enforcement agencies. We strongly support legislation that promotes business growth while protecting individual’s rights to privacy.

With the backdrop of continuing and unabated safety risks, Congress has taken steps to address the issue by authorizing the U.S. Departments of Homeland Security and Justice to remove unauthorized drones. As of early October, this legislation in the FAA reauthorization bill has been approved by the House and Senate, and was awaiting the president’s signature.

NGCOA would like to hear your take on this issue. Post your feedback on the NGCOA Accelerate forum or email me at rmiles@ngcoa.org.

And for more on the proposed legislation, NGCOA members can find read more at http://accelerate.ngcoa.org.

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