FAA allows BP to fly drones over land

FAA allows BP to fly drones over land
For the first time, the U.S. Department of Transportation has authorized commercial drone use over land.

     Energy giant BP and AeroVironment Inc., a manufacturer of unmanned aircraft systems, can fly an unmanned aircraft (drone) on aerial surveys in Alaska, the Federal Aviation Administration announced June 10.
    “These surveys on Alaska’s North Slope are another important step toward broader commercial use of unmanned aircraft,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a statement released by the FAA. “The technology is quickly changing, and the opportunities are growing.”
     An AeroVironment Puma AE will be used in aerial surveys of BP pipelines, roads and equipment at Prudhoe Bay -- the largest oilfield in the United States. AeroVironment performed the first flight for BP on June 8.
     The drone is about 4 feet, 6 inches long and has a wingspan of 9 feet. Using the information generated by the Puma’s sensors, BP hopes to target maintenance issues on roads and infrastructure – saving time, improving safety and helping to protect the sensitive North Slope, according to the FAA.
     This is the latest in a progression of decisions that increase the use of drones. Last summer, the FAA allowed drones to do limited aerial surveillance over Arctic waters.
      The FAA selected six drone test sites on Dec. 30, 2013. The agency announced that it was working with the test sites to guide research programs that will help integrate drones safely into the national airspace during the next several years.
     On May 5, the FAA announced that the University of Alaska’s unmanned aircraft system test site was the second of six to become operational. The University of Alaska Fairbanks was authorized to fly small drones for animal surveys.
     The wildlife operation is meant to show how a drone can accurately locate, identify and count caribou, reindeer, musk ox and bear for survey operations requested by Alaska. Flights are taking place at the university's Large Animal Research Station.
     Because the research station is within 5 miles of Fairbanks International Airport, the flights will evaluate procedures for coordination with air traffic controllers, as well as the type and frequency of operational data provided to them, according to the FAA.

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