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Q&A: Drone Attorney Jamie Nafziger

The interview below was published in the Mid-November issue of Successful Farming magazine.

SF: What is your role as it relates to legal issues and an unmanned aerial system? 

JN: I help clients figure out what they need to do to use UAS for commercial purposes in terms of complying with laws and regulations. I also help co-ops and precision agriculture companies with the complex legal issues raised by the use of drones, including ownership of data generated by flying drones over farms, privacy laws that are implicated by using farm data in precision ag, and policies and agreements needed for precision agriculture websites, programs, and apps.

SF: How will the new rule (Part 107) impact ag? 

JN: The new rule makes it easier to use small drones (under 55 pounds including payload) in agriculture. The rule took effect on August 29, 2016. As long as users follow the regulations under the new rule, they don’t need to obtain an exemption from the FAA for commercial use of drones anymore. This means a real time and money savings for growers, agronomists, and people offering drones as a service. Further, you no longer need a pilot’s license to fly a drone commercially. Now you can fly with a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating. Getting such a certificate is easier than getting a pilot’s license – it’s more like taking a course and an exam. That means there should be more business opportunities for service providers and more people eligible to fly drones on farms. The line-of-sight requirement has been relaxed, as well. Now drone operators can work with visual observers with whom they are in audio communication, and as long as one of them can see the drone, it is acceptable. This enables longer drone flights.

SF: What do farmers need to pay special attention to when it comes to the new rule?  

JN: Farmers will either need to become certified to fly a drone or hire someone who is certified. As part of the certification process, drone operators will learn all of the FAA safety rules that apply to commercial use of drones. If farmers decide to hire someone to fly a drone for them, they should understand who will have the right to use the data that is collected by the drone. Drone operators need to register their drones with the FAA. The FAA has a website ( on flying drones for business. Many states, and even some cities, have passed drone-related laws. It would be wise for you to find out if your town or state has
additional rules or

SF: What are you hearing about privacy issues? 

JN: Farms are an interesting cross between homes and businesses. Personal and business information are treated differently under the law. Many questions involve how to appropriately notify people on farms as to what will be done with personal and business information if it is collected by a drone. The NTIA released a privacy best practices guide for drones ( this past summer that may be helpful. 


Name: Jamie Nafziger

TITLE: Partner, Dorsey & Whitney, LLP

HOME: Minneapolis, MN

BACKGROUND: Nafziger grew up in Wisconsin dairy country. She has many ag cooperative clients and has advised them in intellectual property and privacy issues, the commercial use of drones, and the legal issues surrounding developing and launching precision agriculture software systems and apps. She chairs the firm’s cybersecurity, privacy, and social media practice group.

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