Are drones a viable option for forest managers?

A drone photo of Cranberry Cove on Richardson Lake.

By Walker Day, chair, Technical Committee

A meeting was held on April 25 at the Maine Forests Products Council headquarters to discuss small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS) rules and regulations. Attendance included representatives from many large landowners, mills, political entities, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Presentations from Seven Islands Land Company (SILC) personnel highlighted the potential use of sUAS technology for forest management, and the struggles that SILC has encountered thus far.

Arthur Hinaman, FAA Manager, Technical Support Branch, was very helpful and we were fortunate to have him in attendance via conference call from Washington D.C. He answered many questions about certain rules, particularly the beyond visual line of sight rule, which is the biggest obstacle for forest managers at this time. After hearing what Mr. Hinaman had to say, it was agreed that obtaining a waiver at this time may not be the best option for forest managers.

The Technical Committee was formed at the end of the meeting and will reach out to other entities such as the U.S. Forest Service to see what they are doing to combat some of the issues SILC has run into. The committee will also explore new sUAS technology as it is released to see if it is a viable option for forest managers.

The main purpose of the committee is to find a practical solution for sUAS operations in Maine’s forests. Anyone interested in joining the Technical Committee is encouraged to contact Walker Day at wday@sevenislands.com.