Vineyard drone flies into legal haze

From: Western Farm Press

The YouTube video begins with a soaring journey above century-old magnolia trees that lead from Highway 12 into Kenwood’s Kunde Family Estate.

Winemaker Zach Long describes the estate’s wines as the aerial tour continues over hillside vineyards that produce each varietal.

The images are lovely, the production slick. It’s also likely the video is illegal.

Under current federal aviation rules, using unmanned aircraft — what commonly are referred to as drones — for commercial purposes is prohibited in the United States.

Kunde officials dispute that’s what they are doing with Vino, the nickname for the remote-controlled device they bought for less than $1,000 online.

“We’re just filming our vineyards,” said Marcia Kunde Mickelson, the winery’s marketing communications manager.

Regardless, the winery’s drone illustrates how widespread their use has become and the challenges facing local, state and federal authorities as they try to craft regulations to deal with thousands more unmanned aircraft taking to the nation’s skies. By one estimate, there will be 30,000 drones whizzing and whirring above us by 2020.

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