BP is the first company to fly an Federal Aviation Administration-authorized unmanned aircraft system over land commercially, the FAA said Tuesday.
The FAA issued a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization to survey BP pipelines, roads and equipment at Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. AeroVironment, flying an AeroVironment Puma AE, performed the first flight for BP on June 8.
"These surveys on Alaska's North Slope are another important step toward broader commercial use of unmanned aircraft," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said. "The technology is quickly changing, and the opportunities are growing."
Join Ag Engage and the Penton Farm Progress Group for a first-ever outdoor exposition for unmanned aerial vehicle use in agriculture, the Precision Aerial Ag Show! Learn more about the event, set for July 9 and 10, 2014, at Progress City USA in Decatur, Ill.
Using the information generated by the UAS' sensors, FAA says BP hopes to target maintenance activities on specific roads and infrastructure, which will save time and support safety and operational reliability goals, while helping to protect the sensitive North Slope environment.
Currently, other commercial flights are still prohibited, but hobby flights are not. Farmers often use unmanned aerial vehicles privately to scout crop growth and potential issues. To adhere to FAA's rules on UAS, hobby pilots must fly below 400 feet, 3 miles from an airport, and away from populated areas.
Groups earlier this year asked the FAA to expedite rulemaking on commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicles. According to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, allowing UAS into commercial airspace will create more than 100,000 new jobs and $82 billion in economic impact in the first decade following integration.
Tuesday's announcement also follows a June 2 FAA statement that suggested the Administration would consider petitions from seven motion picture companies seeking permission to fly commercially. FAA said agricultural UAS companies were also considering filing petitions for commercial operation.