Farmers finally have a set of proposed rules for using un­­manned aircraft systems (UAS) on their farms, a major step forward for an industry eager to use the machines to check on their crops and livestock.

The Federal Aviation Adminis­tration (FAA) last week proposed a set of safety regulations that would allow routine use of UAS, or drones, for commercial operations. Until now, UAS have been allowed to fly only for recreational purposes or with a permit.

"The agriculture industry is very, very interested in unmanned aircraft," Eric Parker, FAA aviation safety inspector, said last week at the Iowa Farm Bureau’s Policy Information Conference in Des Moines. "The FAA understands this."

Ensuring safe...