Drones: The latest sensation sweeping the landscaping nation?

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Updated Sep 17, 2019
Photo: PixabayPhoto: Pixabay

Drone technology is something new that’s really begun to shake up the agricultural industry over the last few years, but farmers aren’t the only ones who can benefit from them.

Lawn and landscape professionals can benefit greatly from the use of drones in their everyday business life, whether it be for photography, videography or project area scouting. Regardless of the need or company size, there are multitudes of ways to take advantage of the technological advances drones bring to the table.

How can landscapers use it?

These small, rotor-equipped robots are typically operated from the ground and fly or hover in the sky to provide aerial views to the operators. They are referred to as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and when they are paired with a remote control and two-way communication, the whole thing is considered an unmanned aerial system (UAS).

Drones are lightweight and highly maneuverable, and they can be operated either by a remote control or a smartphone. Depending on the model, they can typically fly for almost an hour on a single charge.

Recently, landscape and lawn care professionals have found ways to harness the ease and handiness of drones in their everyday work. Drones can play an important role in project presentation and promotion for landscapers, as it is a tool that allows landscapers to see an entire setting in context within a continuous moving image.

Drones can also help you assess the safety of jobsites and check the effectiveness of irrigation and other practices.

Along with observing the aforementioned uses, drones can also be used by landscapers to collect unique aerial project photographs and videos. So far, the most popular uses for drones in landscaping has been for promotional purposes. They can also provide real time videos and photos of projects in process, site surveying and modeling. They help landscapers capture an entirely different vantage point and produce stunning results, which could end up helping out with your sales and marketing approach.

Scott Cohen, owner and founder of The Green Scene Landscaping and Pools, has found drones to be a new and innovative way of creating photographs and videos for his company.

“We have a saying here that the ‘next job always comes from the last job,’ and photos have a lot to do with that,” Cohen told Landscape Leadership. “With a drone, you can get views that aren’t possible with a regular camera. For example, you can fly a drone off the edge of a cliff and get an incredible shot of a vanishing edge pool.”

Cohen says that drone videos and photographs have also come in handy when used as design tools.

“From a design standpoint, landscape architects are used to working from a plot view,” he told Landscape Leadership. “We draw it as though we’re seeing it from space but before drones we were never actually looking at the projects that way. The drone gives us a whole new perspective during the design phase and throughout its construction as well.”

Rules of drone use

While the temptation may be to attempt to fly the drone yourself to save some money, save yourself the headache and go ahead and hire a professional.

Flying drones is more complicated than it seems, and if you or someone on your crew is inexperienced with flying it, it could result in crashing and breaking the machine. To save on replacement and repair costs, just go ahead and shell out the cash to hire someone experienced in drone flying. 

“I think there are a lot of companies who believe this is something easy to do on their own but once they realize everything that’s involved, they begin to recognize the investment of time and money and the value of hiring someone,” Alyssa Brackett, co-owner of Oklahoma Drone Photography, told Landscape Leadership.  “Our company offers competitive pricing and takes care of everything. It takes the hassle out of the equation.”

Before flying drones outdoors, they must be registered. Since Dec. 21, 2017, drones must be registered with the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Unmanned Aircraft System if the aircraft weighs more than 0.55 pounds but less than 55 pounds. For those who do not register their drones, there is the possibility of facing civil and criminal penalties.

Owners must provide his or her name, email and home address when registering, and once registration is complete, the online application will generate a Certificate of Aircraft Registration/Proof of Ownership that will include a unique identification number for the owner.

According to FAA, there are three ways to fly a UAS for business: following the requirements in the Small UAS rule, following the rules in your Section 333 grant of exemption or obtaining an airworthiness certificate for the aircraft.

There are other rules and regulations that go along with drone usage, such as not flying them within five miles of an airport or helipad without filing a request to do so, and not flying them over crowds of people. Flying drones after sunset and sunrise is also prohibited, and they must stay within the line of sight of the operator at all times.

FAA offers these guidelines for operating drones:

  • Take a lesson before you fly
  • Inspect your aircraft before you fly
  • Fly your unmanned aircraft below 400 feet
  • Fly with local clubs
  • Don’t fly your unmanned aircraft beyond your line of sight
  • Don’t fly your aircraft near airports or any manned aircraft
  • Don’t fly near people or stadiums
  • Don’t be careless or reckless. You could be fined if you endanger people or other aircraft
  • Don’t fly anything that weighs more than 55 pounds
  • Don’t fly for payment or commercial purposes unless specifically authorized by the FAA
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