My Sunday column profiled an entrepreneur in New Prague who may be the first to be granted permission to fly a drone in Minnesota. Tim Briggs of AeroLogix was able to win that distinction by working through a government agency, in this case Le Sueur County. More than 90 companies have submitted petitions to the Federal Aviation Administration to fly drones, otherwise known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) or Unpiloted Aircraft Systems (UAS), for business.
So far, three of them have strong Minnesota ties. Viafield, an ag cooperative based in Iowa but also operating in far southern Minnesota, submitted its petition to use a tiny drone, called an eBee, to zoom over fields. The "aerial scouting technology" can help advise farmers by getting a bird's eye view of the state of their soil and crops. The Picture Factory, Inc., a Woodbury company that does aerial filming and photography, submitted a petition. So did Jeffrey J. Walsh of Cottage Grove, a "certified photogrammetrist." Photogrammetry means making maps and measurements from photographs.
You can slog through all of the petitions by going here. Among the petitioners are some big names, such as BNSF Railway, Chevron USA, State Farm and other companies hoping to use drones for inspecting facilities they own or insure. Then there's Amazon Prime Air, which wants permission to test its delivery drone. Check out the (still a fantasy) service below.